Air Transport World

The numbers game. (operating regulations for small commuter aircraft)

Eliminating Part 135 operating regulations governing small commuter airlines represent one of those issues that bubble to the surface every other year.

Each time, the idea of making small airlines adhere to a the more stringent Part 121 regulations for scheduled air carriers operating aircraft with more than 30 seats is discussed. Each time, the issue is dropped.

This time, however, proponents of one standard for all have more ammunition and more soldiers with which to do batfie. A poor safety record for 1991 and two accidents involving U.S.- owned regional carriers this year, along with charges that pilot fatigue may have contributed to some of those past accidents fuels the debate, despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board never has cited fatigue as a probable cause of any airline acccident. Increased flight-time regulations for Part 135 operations is the key elenlent in the debate to change the regulations.

This time around, the soldiers include well-intentioned but not fully informed members of Congress, consumeg groups, the NTSB, pilots' unions and timid air travelers, who have been led to believe that Part 135 commuter airlines are not as safe as are major carriers. And then, there are the daily newspapers and television networks that bash away at the regional carriers, without fully understanding their target. …

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