FAA to ‘Transform’ Flight Ops Oversight

By James T. McKenna | August 16, 2017
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FAA Flying Lab

FAA Flying Lab. Photo courtesy of the FAA

Look for the U.S. FAA to detail plans Aug. 20 to reorganize oversight of flight operations, airmen certification, aircraft maintenance and training as part of its “transformation” of aviation safety functions.

Reorganization of the agency’s Flight Standards Service follows by about a month its overhaul of civil aircraft and aviation products through a complete reorganization of its Aircraft Certification Service.

For three decades, the FAA has relied on a decentralized organization model that pushed the development and application of safety oversight policy and measures down to eight regional offices and more than 100 local ones.

“The rationale was [that] by locating decision-making closest to where the actual work was being performed, the quality of the actions would be enhanced by the proximity to the facts,” wrote Joseph Del Balzo, former FAA acting administrator who now runs the Washington, D.C.-area consultancy JDA Aviation Technology Solutions. His comments appeared on that firm’s website.

Over those 30 years, the FAA’s staffing and resources have not kept pace with the growth of the U.S, aviation industry or with technological advances. That disparity prompted FAA officials to move toward risk-based decision-making to make the agency “an agile, effective and consistent organization that operates with greater accountability, for the use of resources and change readiness,” according to “The Future of Flight Standards,” an FAA document on the changes in that service.

As with the Aircraft Certification Service, those changes are intended to transform Flight Standards from a geographic-based organization to a functional-based one. According to FAA documents, Flight Standards’ eight regional offices and 100 or so local ones will be replaced by offices organized under four divisions.

The divisions will be the Air Carrier Safety Assurance Office, the General Aviation Safety Assurance Office, the Safety Standards Office and the Foundational Business Office.

Those divisions will be led by directors, who will report to the executive director of the Flight Standards Service. Each division will have two deputy directors. Twenty-eight divisional offices will be divided among the four divisions.

The Air Carrier Safety Assurance Office, its six division and its field offices will oversee all Federal Aviation Regulations Part 121 airlines and their operations.

The responsibilities of the General Aviation Safety Assurance Office, its eight divisions and its field offices will include oversight of general aviation and Part 135 air carriers, including helicopter air ambulance operations.

Policy and regulatory functions will fall under the Safety Standards Office and its eight divisions, which will include ones responsible for aircraft evaluation groups, flight technologies, aircraft maintenance and safety analysis, as well as international programs.

The Foundational Business Office’s six divisions will include the FAA’s Aircraft Registry, as well as a safety risk management sub-office and human resource and other “back office” functions.

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