...System Good, Getting Better, Says Blakey...

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In her letter, Blakey said the FAA has moved away from a "checklist" approach to safety programs to a risk-based system in which inspectors can spot safety trends and then direct carriers to adjust their in-house safety programs to solve problems before they result in a crash. Blakey also appears to dispute Mead's suggestion that foreign-based maintenance contractors are under-inspected or that the inspections themselves are somehow deficient because they are carried out by the host country's aviation authorities. She claims that while U.S. maintenance shops undergo 30 audits a year, foreign operators get checked an average of 74 times a year, and in countries that have bilateral agreements with the U.S., contractors must maintain FAA certification to work on U.S. planes. But the editorial was skeptical of the FAA's defense of its safety programs. "That's eerily reminiscent of the FAA of a decade ago, which denied increasing signs that overburdened inspectors were not keeping up with a swiftly changing industry," the editorial read. However, Blakey says the proof is in the safety record, which now stands at one fatality for every 15 million passenger flights. "So it is disappointing that the newspaper continues an editorial position that ignores how the nation's airline safety program got to this point," Blakey wrote.