...In The Face Of Fatal Figures

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The federal motivation for change was made obvious when FAA head Marion Blakey said of Flight Service late last year, "This is an area where the FAA is actively looking at the private-sector option." The administrator said, "It's costing $500 million per year ... $27 for every single communication Flight Service has. We don't think that's efficient." But AVweb more recently reported that -- in Idaho -- accident statistics for the year showed a 38-percent increase, with 57 percent more fatal crashes and 61 percent more fatalities when compared to averages over the previous 11 years. That was with the insights of briefers. The NTSB and FAA offered no explanation for the sharp increase, but the state's aeronautic division performed an analysis and concluded, "It's pilot error." Shields said that in bad weather, the local knowledge of the Boise briefers prevents countless accidents by allowing them to steer pilots clear of dangerous conditions. "It's a daily thing for us." There are those who would suggest perhaps those briefers didn't do so well last year, but those individuals might want to consider how the statistics may have differed if there had been no briefers at all. Shields says he's risking disciplinary action from the FAA by speaking out. Shumann said the goal of the A-76 study is to make the AFSS system "safer, more efficient and cost-effective. It's clearly in need of upgrading."