The FAA scorecard: How’s it going?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — During the dog days of August Congress is away and it’s a good time to take a look at some of the subjects not usually considered for news reports — for instance, the FAA’s scorecard.

The FAA rates itself in a “”how are we doing” report matched to the goals it sets. It is a month-by-month report and covers everything from how well it is doing in hiring practices through safety initiatives, international leadership, and reducing runway incursions to cost controls. Generally, the FAA is matching up pretty well to its goals. Most of the results are as good as, or better than, the goals set.

In cost control, for instance, everything is right on target for the first nine months of this fiscal year (which ends Sept. 30).

General aviation accident rates are below the target line. There were 201 GA fatal accidents through June. The FAA had set as a goal a not-to-exceed ceiling of 235. This is 41 fewer fatal accidents than last year. Amateur-built aircraft accidents dropped to 25, far below the trend line. Rotorcraft accidents amounted to 20, a bit higher than the goal but still below previous years.

The accident rate of the commercial air carriers is not up to the goals set by the FAA this year. The goal for the end of the fiscal year is a three-year rolling average of 0.018 fatal accidents per 100,000 departures. There have been three fatal air carrier accidents through June of this fiscal year.

The FAA has in later months of FY 2006 slightly beaten its goals for control of operational errors. However, last October and November were above the target line and later months not improved enough below the goal to merit putting the activity “”in the green,” or favorable, column. For FY 2006, the FAA had set a goal of 4.27 operational errors per million in categories A and B (the most serious).

On cost control the FAA has been right on target. Organizations within the agency have identified $49 million in cost efficiency measures through June. Cost savings are becoming increasingly vital as the FAA looks to the increased costs associated with development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

CONGRESS RETURNS

As Congress comes back to session this month, members can expect more arm twisting on the funding issue. FAA expects to need additional funds for NextGen, with low estimates calling for an annual budget of more than $1 billion. So, the administration will be looking for new sources of money. New Very Light Jets coming on the market, coupled with more fears of terrorists as shown in the England-to-America bomb threats, is expected to move more top business brass away from public carriers to their own, faster and safer general aviation aircraft. This will give the airlines, led by their trade group the Air Transport Association, greater incentive to seek government help in squashing their competition. ATA still is pushing for fees for each operation and for length of time in the air traffic control system.

An interesting observation: Seven major airlines are in, or have been in, bankruptcy. One avoided it only with government help. Many airline companies have defaulted on their pension plans, meaning the federal government — taxes — will have to take over. Airlines also have asked for moratoriums on some taxes so they can keep ticket prices low. And to think, such brilliant business managers want to tell the government how to manage its aviation affairs!

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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