New report questions FAA's airline safety promise

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 19, 2013 at 8:14 am •  Published: February 19, 2013

After the Colgan crash, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and then-FAA chief Randy Babbitt announced an industry-government "call to action" and they held a well-publicized safety summit. An airline safety "action plan" released by FAA officials at the time promised that the FAA and the department would "develop the authority and processes to review agreements" between major carriers and their regional partners.

That plan said one of its short-term goals was that "major carriers should seek specific and concrete ways" to ensure that their smaller airline partner carriers adopt and implement the larger company's most effective practices for safety. That was to include periodic meetings to review safety data gathering programs and "to constantly emphasize their shared safety philosophy."

The inspector general's report said that although the FAA sponsors biannual information-sharing events for the airline industry, "it has not taken steps to encourage mainline carriers to consistently share safety information and best practices with their code-share partners."

The FAA dropped its plans to review code-sharing agreements because agency officials felt the largest airlines had taken steps to increase their safety sharing with their regional partners, the report said.

But the inspector general found that while that was true of one large airline, it wasn't the case for others. The report reviewed four major and eight regional carriers who participate in code share agreements, but did not identify the airlines.

Rivkin replied in a letter to the inspector general that the FAA doesn't make a distinction between "major" and "regional" carriers because "all of those carriers meet the same standards."

Scott Maurer, whose 30-year-old daughter, Lorin, died in the Colgan crash, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the inspector general's findings.

"These promises tend to end up becoming lip service," he said. "It sounds good at the time, but there is no follow through."

A year after the Colgan crash, then-Continental Airlines CEO Jeffrey Smisek angered victims' families when he said it was the FAA's responsibility to ensure Colgan's pilots were properly trained, not Continental's.

"We did not train those pilots. We did not maintain those aircraft. We did not operate the aircraft. But we expect them to be safe. We expect the Federal Aviation Administration to do its job," Smisek told a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The father of a law student killed in the crash later cornered Smisek in the hallway outside the hearing room, complaining that his daughter bought her ticket from Continental, not Colgan.

Smisek is now the president and CEO of the holding company for United Airlines, which merged with Continental.

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