Aviation Safety

Air Taxis--The Most Accident-Prone Airlines--Need Better Oversight Gao ID: RCED-92-60 January 21, 1992

Air taxis have the highest commercial airline accident rate in the United States per 100,000 hours flown. From January 1990 through July 1991, air taxis had about 13 times and 5 times more accidents, respectively, than air carriers and commuters. Yet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information shows that more than one-quarter of air taxis did not receive required inspections in fiscal year 1990. Also, routine FAA inspection generally did not spot violations that resulted in emergency orders revoking air taxis' operating certificates. FAA could improve detection of safety problems and cut the potential risk of air taxi accidents by more effectively allocating the resources it devotes to inspecting the air taxi industry. For example, it could target resources on the basis of performance data and conduct additional special inspections. Also, because air taxi operators' financial problems and poor compliance attitudes have led to serious safety violations, the costs and safety benefits of economic oversight deserve more scrutiny and consideration. Although FAA has tried to improve its overall inspection program, fundamental problems remain. FAA does not track identified problems to see if they have been corrected. Also, since the financial distress of some airlines can lead to shortcomings in safety, FAA's inspector handbook should be revised to provide for special oversight of such airlines. Additionally, the agency lacks a formal process to track those who commit violations resulting in emergency revocation of an operating certificate, raising the possibility that such individuals might return to the airline industry as key managers and owners. FAA needs to perform (1) a minimum level of required inspections and (2) industrywide special inspections periodically. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Aviation Safety: Better Oversight Would Reduce the Risk of Air Taxi Accidents, by John H. Anderson, Jr., Associate Director for Transportation Issues, before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Public Works and Transportation. GAO/T-RCED-92-27, Feb. 25, 1992 (15 pages).

GAO found that: (1) despite air taxi services' high accident rate, FAA information indicated that 27 percent of air taxis did not receive required inspections in fiscal year 1990; (2) FAA routine inspections generally did not detect violations that led to emergency orders revoking air taxis' operating certificates; (3) FAA special inspections are more comprehensive than routine inspections and have been more effective in identifying air taxis' safety violations; (4) FAA has not performed all required annual routine inspections or an industry-wide special inspection since 1985 because it considers air carriers, commuters, and other aviation-related activities to have higher inspection priority; (5) air taxi operators' financial distress and poor compliance attitude contributed to safety violations; and (6) air taxi operators do not have to meet OST economic fitness standards, and OST officials stated that requiring air taxis to do so would place an undue burden on the industry.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.