Air Transport World

On zero accidents, safety and loose talk.(US Transportation Secretary Federico Pena)

Achieving a zero-accident rate is a heroic goal. Trouble is, no one thinks it has mathematical validity. So when U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena dedared that he "will not settle for anything less than zero accidents," the improbability made it sound like political grandstanding. That the initiative came so soon after a series of fatal but seemingly unrelated U.S. accidents in 1994 made it even more suspect-so much so that Irene Howie, moderating a safety panel at an American Bar Assn. meeting, quoting a former FAA operations manager about the initiative, asked: "Is this honesty or bull .... ?.

And well-intentioned or not, other recent safety-related actions by the administration fall into the same category. These include visits by both the Secretary and his Federal Aviation Administrator, David Hinson, to crash sites in the immediate aftermath of accidents; a high-profile safety meeting attended by almost 1,000, at which Pena and Hinson launched the zeroaccidents campaign; the NTSB's tour for families of USAir flight 427 victims to view the wreckage; the continuing policy of daily NTSB press conferences at crash sites and the use of information about countries not meeting ICAO safety standards in a way perceived as competitively damaging. It's depressingly reminiscent of the grandstanding during the regimes of Republican Secretaries Elizabeth Dole and James Burnley (ATW, 6/88). …

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