Irregular procedures, delays, and consistency problems in FAA’s programs to certify aircraft, aviation equipment and systems can inflate costs, lose production time, and put U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The study says there is a lack of uniform standards and evaluation criteria with FAA and field offices. GAO found that these are long-standing problems, but isolated with only about 20% of the interviewees reporting problems.
Two members of the lower House of Congress who requested the study believe the problems are more widespread. “I have heard from many U.S. aviation operators and manufacturers about the scope and magnitude of varying regulatory interpretations and their impact on the industry,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) who, along with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), requested the study.
He said that one aviation industry representative reported that delays in his company’s approval by FAA field offices resulted in a five-year delay and a million dollars in additional costs. Another company, he added, abandoned its efforts to obtain operating certification at a cost of $1.2 million and never received an explanation from the FAA for the delay. Delays and added costs can raise the selling price.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will create a heavier workload on FAA certification and approval offices, putting added burdens and costs on the FAA and discourage aircraft operators from investing in NextGen equipment, according to Mica.
GAO recommends that FAA determine the effectiveness of actions to improve the certification and approval processes by developing a continuous evaluation process and use it to create measurable performance goals for action, track performance toward these goals, and determine appropriate process changes. The office also urged FAA to develop and implement a process in Flight Standards to track how long certification and approval submissions are wait-listed, the reasons for wait-listing, and factors that eventually allowed initiation of the certification process.