FAA Beefs Up Maintenance Oversight

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The FAA is increasing efforts to study airline maintenance mistakes and find ways to prevent them, The Charlotte Observer reported on Thursday. Such errors have been blamed for contributing to the crashes of commuter planes in Charlotte, N.C., and Cape Cod, Mass., last year. Two new inspectors who specialize in maintenance "human factors" have been hired by the FAA, the Observer said. Bill Johnson and Jay Hines will study how human factors such as fatigue and poor communication among mechanics can cause maintenance mistakes. Former NTSB member John Goglia told the Observer he is encouraged by the FAA's effort, but there is a long way to go to achieve results. The NTSB issued its probable-cause report on the Cape Cod crash in August, and found the elevator trim system had been mis-rigged. The safety board came to a similar conclusion in its report on the Charlotte crash, issued in June. The aircraft in both cases was a Beech 1900D. Two pilots died in the Cape Cod crash, and the Charlotte accident killed all 21 on board. From 1994 to 2003, maintenance problems contributed to 42 percent of fatal airline accidents in the United States, excluding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a study by the Observer. That was up from 16 percent the previous decade.