Inspector General 135 Operators Require Increased FAA Scrutiny
March 18, 2010 - On Wednesday, the
Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, Calvin L. Scovel,
testified before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee before the United States House of Representatives on the
Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) oversight of on-demand aircraft
Scovel, indicated on-demand aircraft operations carries a number of safety risks, such as short, frequent flights with more takeoffs and landings, the most dangerous part of flight. Unlike large commercial carriers, on-demand flights often operate at altitudes that are vulnerable to terrain and weather hazards and utilize small airports without air traffic control towers or emergency equipment.
Scovel indicated the National
Transportation Safety Board statistics showed that higher risks have
translated into more accidents for on-demand operators. Over the last 10
years, on-demand operators have been involved in 155 fatal accidents,
compared to 18 involving large commercial air carriers.
Scovel further stated the FAA’s oversight of this industry is primarily based on compliance with outdated regulations that are less rigorous than those for large commercial carriers in key areas, such as flight crew training requirements and aircraft maintenance inspections.
Scovel focused on three key areas in his testimony.
(1) The inherent risks surrounding on-demand operators.
(2) The need for an updated and effective regulatory framework given these risks.
(3) Challenges facing FAA in moving from compliance-based oversight to a risk-based approach.
Scovel sited that the mid-air collision between an air tour helicopter and a private aircraft over the Hudson River last August highlighted the inherent risks in on-demand operations and underscores the need for continued efforts to enhance oversight of this industry.
FAA has three
tiers of aviation oversight conducted under three primary regulations:
(1) private owner operations regulated under Part 91;2 (2) small,
commercial operators flying primarily on-demand service regulated under
Part 135;3 and (3) large, commercial air carriers regulated under Part
despite these changes, FAA has not revised many Part 135 provisions
since 1978. These regulations are also less rigorous than those for
large, commercial carriers in key areas, such as flight crew
requirements and maintenance inspections for aircraft (see table 1).
Yet, FAA has not implemented recommendations made by its own Part 135
Aviation Rulemaking Committee or the NTSB to strengthen Part 135
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