The Federal Aviation Administration is "scrambling vainly to catch up" with a rapidly changing airline industry whose decisions at times are driven by dollars and not safety, a congressional study said Wednesday.
The 183-page report by the Office of Technology Assessment suggests that Congress provide the FAA with additional funds and press for more inspectors and air traffic controllers as well as organizational streamlining that places more emphasis on safety.
Unannounced inspections and periodic in-depth inspections of both large and small airlines by the FAA "are indispensable tools for ensuring public safety," but currently the FAA doesn't have enough inspectors, the report said.
The technology office is a nonpartisan agency that helps Congress deal with complex and often highly technical issues. The report on air safety was requested by the House aviation subcommittee.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose), the subcommittee chairman, said the report's call for "stable and adequate funding" for the FAA is among its most important findings.
The study notes that the safety record of U.S. airlines "ranks among the best in the world," but it added that the intense changes in the industry and bitter competition among airlines pose safety concerns.
"While airline officials are concerned about safety, financial considerations drive many industry decisions and will continue to do so as long as strong competition exists among the airlines," the study concluded.