NTSB Examines Regional Airline Safety

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The NTSB this week held a two-day forum to examine safety issues related to code-sharing agreements between major airlines and regional carriers. "We have investigated many accidents in which passengers bought tickets on a major carrier and flew all or part of their trip on a different carrier -- one that may have been operating to different safety standards than the carrier that issued the ticket," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said that crews on regional routes tend to fly "potentially the most fatiguing schedules" and added that "current regulations never envisioned this model." Besides representatives of the NTSB, FAA and the airline industry, presenters at the forum included relatives of crash victims, who provided some of the most dramatic testimony.

Some family members said the FAA's tolerance of different standards for pilots at smaller carriers amounts to a fraud on the public, according to USA Today. "Why are the airlines allowed to play that shell game?" asked Scott Maurer, whose daughter Lorin died in last year's Colgan Air crash. USA Today noted that although six of the nine fatal airline accidents since 2003 involved regional carriers, over longer time periods the safety records are about the same. Airline representatives said the system improves service to hundreds of smaller airports and keeps fares low. Regional airlines account for half of all U.S. passenger flights and about a quarter of all passengers, according to the Washington Post. More details about the forum, including prepared testimony by most of the participants and an archived webcast, is available at the NTSB website.