New Programs, New Culture

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In fact, the flight portion of an airline trip is no longer considered the dangerous part. FAA officials privately suggest that they consider the greatest risk for the next major accident to be a runway incursion of some sort and there have been some close calls in the last couple of years. (Note: the FAA and the air traffic controllers union have not recently appeared to be the best of friends.) According to the USA Today report, the improved flight safety record resulted from some (seemingly) common-sense measures that made the agency, the airlines and flight crews allies in safety. For instance, regulators simplified approaches and traffic routes around airports, while airlines stepped up monitoring of flight crew performance. Pilots themselves have all but abandoned the patriarchal (and sometimes dangerous) notion that the four-striper in the left seat's judgment and authority is never questioned. Still, mistakes (and bad luck) happen and all airlines have anonymous tip lines in which pilots and other crew are encouraged to report safety lapses or potentially dangerous incidents. "The only way you are going to (improve safety) is if you get as much information as you can about those near misses that occur out there," Capt. Terry McVenes, safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, told USA Today. The union now takes an active role in incident investigations in return for promises from the airlines that pilots who come forward won't be disciplined for their part in any mistake or mishap.