Cash-Strapped Airlines "Safer"

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Forget about visions of baling wire and binder twine maintenance, today's cash-strapped airlines are actually safer to fly, according to the FAA. Nicholas Sabatini, who heads up the regulation and certification section of the agency, said money problems tend to cause airlines to mothball their older aircraft in favor of new (and theoretically more trouble-free) planes. Layoffs have also resulted in the move of some captains to the right seat so "what you have on the flight deck is a very highly experienced combination of crew members -- in essence two captains," Sabatini told The New York Times. It's not just what's up front that counts. Sabatini said the FAA has also been carefully watching 11 airlines in financial trouble to ensure maintenance standards are up to snuff. "We're not seeing any indications they're cutting corners," he told reporters at a briefing. Meanwhile, Congress and the White House still don't see eye to eye on the dispersal of $3 billion in aid to the cash-strapped industry. President Bush didn't want that much aid in the first place but now that it's on the table he wants it in the hands of the airlines as quickly as possible. Among the ideas floated so far are reimbursement for security-related costs (like bulletproof cockpit doors) and relaxation of security-related fees. Something everyone seems to want to avoid is stretching the payouts over a period of years, as was the case with the post-911 bailout.