GAO Auditing FAA Voluntary Hazmat Disclosure Program

The effectiveness of the program depends on FAA's close monitoring, which GAO is examining.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has begun an audit of the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight of its Hazardous Materials Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program, which started in January 2006 so air carriers could voluntarily disclose violations of the hazmat regulations, free of civil penalties.

 NTSB wasn't able to determine whether lithium batteries aboard this UPS cargo aircraft caused the fire that destroyed the plane in February 2006 after it landed safely in Philadelphia, but it concluded they could pose a fire hazard. (NTSB photo)About 50,000 providers of hazmats ship packages by air annually on more than 400 air carriers, according to GAO, which began the audit last week. From 1991 to 2012, lithium cells and batteries were linked to more than 60 aviation incidents – heat, smoke, fire, or explosion, according to its memorandum to FAA explaining the audit.

The audit will examine how effectively FAA is monitoring the program.

A fire aboard UPS Flight 1307 in February 2007 may have involved a fire started by lithium batteries, but NTSB concluded it could not determine how the fire started in flight. The plane landed safely in Philadelphia and all three crew members survived, but the aircraft was destroyed, as shown in this photo.

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