Dangers Aloft


Maintenance Practices Cited In Airline Crashes…

Flying today is certainly much safer than it was in the early days, when the Wrights and others were developing the first airplanes, but things still can go wrong. Last week, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported that faulty maintenance played a role in at least three, and perhaps four, of the last five fatal airline crashes, including the January crash of an Air Midwest Beech 1900D that killed 21 people in Charlotte. NTSB member John Goglia told the Observer that cost-cutting by the airlines is at the root of the problem. “Unless we start dealing with these issues sooner rather than later, we’re going to pay the price, and that could mean more deaths,” Goglia said. The Observer said its analysis found that since 1994, maintenance problems have contributed to 42 percent of fatal airline accidents in the United States, excluding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s up from 16 percent the previous decade. In the Air Midwest accident, the cable work was outsourced, and was performed by a mechanic working a 14-hour shift and attempting that type of repair for the first time on a Beech 1900D, the Observer said. Maintenance has been the largest single source of enforcement actions by the FAA in commercial aviation during the past decade, the Observer said.

The FAA is looking into outsourcing at Continental Airlines, according to a report in Sunday’s USA Today. The newspaper said it has obtained FAA records that say safety inspectors have recommended a penalty for Continental in connection with its use of Miami Tech Line Maintenance, but the nature of the violation is not known. The case is under review at the FAA, and no action has been taken against the company. The FAA declined to comment on the case to USA Today.