The FAA’s Aviation Safety (AVS) organization is responsible for oversight of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO). This structure has the FAA essentially oversee itself, an inherent conflict of interest.
By combining the operation with the oversight function, the status quo confuses responsibility for the different safety functions and impairs accountability. It is also inconsistent with international best practice.
ICAO’s Safety Oversight Manual (Doc 9734, paragraph 2.4.9) calls for the separation of air traffic control safety oversight from air traffic control service provision:
“In those States where the State is both the regulatory authority and an air traffic service provider, aerodrome operator, air operator, manufacturer or maintenance organization, the requirements of the Convention will be met, and public interest be best served, by clear separation of authority and responsibility between the State operating agency and the State regulatory authority. The approval, certification, and continued surveillance procedures should be followed as though the operating agency were a non-governmental entity.”
A recent MITRE report reviewed the experiences of six countries which have separated their air traffic control safety oversight from air traffic control service provision. The report found that one of the significant benefits of separation was that both the oversight body (civil aviation authority, or CAA) and the air navigation service provider (ANSP) demonstrated an increased focus on safety.
Specifically, MITRE found that “the collective experience after separating the ANSP from the CAA was quite good. The primary responsibility of a CAA is safety regulation. Despite the many approaches to organizing the CAA and the ANSP, in each case the safety record of the ANSP was equal to, or better than the record prior to the separation and regulatory costs are largely, or completely, supported by aviation users.”