Air Transport World

Was this trip necessary? (Federal Aviation Administration increases maintenance-inspection requirements after Valujet Airlines Inc. crash)(includes related article on resignation of federal regulator Tony Broderick)

The regulatory fallout from ValuJet's travails already has resulted in FAA's tightening of third-party maintenance requirements. Whether those actions were necessary is a matter of debate.

Most people in industry thought the crackdown was pure politics, as previous actions have been. This one was designed to shield Clinton administration backsides from media criticism of low-cost airlines and maintenance contractors. An industry official recalled the 19S0s farewell speech of an FM general counsel: "He laid bare the political aspects of safety rule making. It was very unflattering."

That the tightening will boost costs, without necessarily boosting safety, also flavors industry comments. A manufacturing official says: "The story was driven by the media and we're stuck with the aftermath. Indeed, the Air Transport Assn. instituted daily meetings to deal with the swirl of publicity and governmental actions resulting from that aftermath. Clive Medland of SH&E says: "It's probably going to have a significant impact that might not be felt for some months."

But questions over FAA's inspection system are not new. Nor have they been answered. Congress's General Accounting Office was due to issue the latest two in a series of reports on FAA last month. One was on the inspection program, including for new-entrant airlines. A GAO staffer reminded ATW: "Our longstanding position is that FM's inspection program has to be fixed. It was never going to have enough resources [the proliferation of airlines has made that worse], so it needs to target its activities. The only way to do that is to improve data accuracy. Thars the recurring message. It's the same thing for new entrants. We're looking at the safety record of all new entrants. We'll be recommending stiffer oversight. …

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