Air Transport World

Discussion on FAA safety rules enforcement; some pros and cons voiced by industry members about FAA's flight safety inspection procedures.

Wherever and whenever commuter/regional airline executives meet, the topic of conversation inevitably shifts to the Federal Aviation Administration, its sins, short-comings and injustices; its heavy handed enforcement tactics; its tough talk and implied crimes; and its confused and inconsistent policies and administration.

Of course, there is the perennial lament that "the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing."

On the other side of the ledger FAA's actions have received support from many quarters. And some of the procedures that dog operators who run afoul of FAA enforcement actions are simply artifacts of the system created by Congress, and no fault of FAA's.

During and after the recent Regional Airline Association meeting in Washington, D.C., ATW questioned operators and association members on their views of FAA flight safety inspection policies and procedures, and what they foresee for the immediate future.

Some were hyper-critical and predicted in hyperbole the end of the road for commuter/regional airline operations because of ever tighter regulations and their associated higher costs. The larger number, however, presented studied and objective thoughts which extended beyond the emotions of the times.

There was and is no disagreement among RAA members as to the need for a government agency charged witht he regulation of public air safety. They concur that the FAA has the right and the responsibility to develop and enforce air transport safety regulations. They believe in penalties against those carriers and their managements who deliberately engage in fraud, or intentional deception to violate safety regulations.

"Easy targets"

Those strong convictions fade somewhat as discussions enter the grey area of FAA administrative policies and air safety inspection procedures and operations. The question of fairness dominates a long list of perceived ills.

The rash of commuter/regional airline groundings during the past 18 months--some 16 commuter operators--has caused those interviewed to suspect FAA and the Department of Transportation of selecting commuter carriers as "easy targets" while very serious bloopers by the major airlines received little more than a slap on the wrist. …

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