Audits initiated of FAA’s process for reporting operational ATC errors

The U.S. DoT’s Office of Inspector General plans to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) process for reporting and mitigating the risk of operational errors by air traffic controllers. 

The review is conducted at the request of the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and its Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security as well as the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

FAA statistics show that the number of operational errors—when a controller fails to maintain a safe separation distance between aircraft—increased by more than 50 percent in fiscal year 2010.

According to FAA, this increase is mostly due to the introduction of voluntary, non-punitive safety reporting, such as through the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP).  FAA also recently implemented the System Loss of Standard Separation (LoSS) Index, which aims to capture incidents where there is a loss of separation between aircraft.

Two audits will be initiated to review these programs in relation to the recent rise of operational errors.  The first will evaluate the policies and process by which FAA is using the LoSS index to (1) collect, measure, evaluate, and report separation losses and (2) mitigate those risks.  The second audit will evaluate FAA’s implementation and oversight of ATSAP.

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