- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Airline safety is quickly becoming a major source of concern within the industry (“FAA reform bill OK’d unanimously,” Web, Politics, Wednesday). Airlines have cut back drastically on required maintenance in order to reduce losses. The airline industry as a whole clearly faces serious financial pressures. Fuel prices have risen dramatically in the same period that consumer demand has fallen, meaning airlines now spend more to earn less in revenues. As a result, airline profits are growing increasingly scarce. At least one major carrier is unlikely to survive this crisis period.

As a result, federal regulators have been extremely lenient - dangerously so - in regard to maintenance standards. Airlines are simply not keeping pace with the required maintenance demands as they seek to cut costs as much as possible. However, they should not be permitted to fly airplanes that are not safe to fly. This is exactly what is happening, with the help of regulators who have agreed to look the other way. It would not be the first time that regulators have colluded with the airline industry.

If the airlines do not quickly change by making aircraft safety a priority, starting with completing the necessary maintenance requirements, it is likely that passengers will pay the ultimate price due to an accident that easily could have been avoided.

Regulators must recognize that safety is not optional. Safety cannot be permitted to suffer through periods of economic decline. Aircraft that are not properly maintained, and therefore that are not safe to fly, should not be permitted off the ground. Also, let it be known that improper maintenance likely afflicts a much larger percentage of aircraft than most Americans would care to know.

Without a better approach, at least one tragic accident is inevitable.

NICHOLAS V. VAKKUR

Doctoral fellow

RAND

Santa Monica, Calif.

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