House Panel Eyes FAA's Safety Oversight

The decision to exempt all-cargo airlines from the pilot fatigue final rule is a topic getting attention from the Subcommittee on Aviation.

An April 25 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation focused on the Federal Aviation Administration's safety oversight, specifically since the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in February 2009. A background paper from the subcommittee's chairman suggests two topics of concern are FAA's decision to exempt all-cargo airlines from its recent pilot fatigue final rule and its reporting systems to track pilot deviations -– pilots deviating from an air traffic controller's instructions –- and operational errors –- a controller's failing to issue instructions or giving bad instructions.

The paper notes that H.R. 4350, a bill to require DOT to apply the fatigue rule to all-cargo operations, was introduced in Congress on April 16.

The hearing is available as a live webcast. Witnesses scheduled to testify included Margaret Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety; David Grizzle, chief operating officer of FAA's Air Traffic Organization; Jeffrey B. Guizetti, assistant inspector general for aviation and special programs audits with the DOT inspector general's office; Tom Hendricks, senior vice president for safety with Airlines for America; and Scott Foose, senior vice president for operations & safety with the Regional Airlines Association.

Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri's background paper cites a 2012 Government Accountability Office review of FAA's Air Traffic Quality Assurance database that found rates of the most severe operational errors more than doubled during the past three years.

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