FAA Takes Credit For Airline Safety...

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Administrator Slams USA Today Editorial

In an unusually acerbic letter published in Friday's USA Today, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey claims that the near-perfect airline safety record of the past four years (several fatal commuter-line crashes don't appear to count in either Blakey's or USA Today's reckoning) is the result of the "enormous effort and singular focus by the FAA and the industry to achieve a historic safety record." Blakey was responding to a USA Today editorial that appeared the previous day that, in directly addressing airline passengers, asserts that they "have a right to know what's going on beneath the silvery skins of all those jetliners." The editorial refers to testimony by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General Ken Mead, who told a congressional committee he's concerned about FAA oversight of maintenance contractors. He suggested that contractors, particularly overseas companies, get less scrutiny than the maintenance departments of the airlines themselves. USA Today seized on the sentiment and reminded readers of the ValuJet crash in Florida (which, incidentally, was caused by a cargo bay fire started by leaking oxygen canisters and had nothing to do with operating parts of the airplane), the investigation of which showed weak monitoring of contract maintenance facilities.