ARE FAA INSPECTIONS REALLY GOOD ENOUGH?
One hundred and ten people were killed on board ValueJet s flight 592 May 11, 1996. Federal Aviation Administration s (FAA) failure to correct the problems found in an inspection contributed to this tragic crash (McKenna 59). FAA inspections are contributing to too many deaths on board major airlines. The corruption in the system has lead to many frightening statistics and problems but there are still a lot of improvements for the FAA.
The FAA s failure to inspect and report malfunctions caused 26 cases of uncontained disk/spacers. Also 10 cases of uncontained blades, 9 reversers, 9 fires in the undercowl, 6 engine separations, 6 case ruptures and 1 cowl separation. Airworthy planes that fly into terrain are the leading cause of accidents. Pilots do not know where they are going in relation to the ground but the aircraft is under control. It has killed 2,396 people from 1987 to 1996. Statistics show that U.S. carriers are the safest in the world. However the Safer Skies program by NASA predicts by the year 2010 there will be 6 or 7 catastrophic accidents per year if changes are not made soon (Hilkovitch 4). The FAA acquired a reputation as the tombstone agency because it only addresses dangerous scenarios after fatal air disasters occur.
General Accounting Office (GAO) found that inspectors often do not write up violations because they are dismissed and proposed fines are set aside by their superiors. FAA inspectors discovered that contractors painting several ValueJet airplanes improperly reinstalled rudders used to steer the plane. AirTran Airlines had falsified documents, improper maintenance, faulty repairs and repeated failures to supervise contractors. Here is an example of an inspection report for AirTran Airlines:
-- 3 instances of failing to properly calculate the proper weight and balance of aircraft to determine safe take off and landing speeds.
-- A senior pilot who oversees the qualifications of other pilots falsified information about the experience of an unspecified number of them.
-- Failure to examine seven planes transponders, which sends out altitude and directional information to traffic controllers, after the planes receive major overhauls.
-- Improperly trained workers renovated an unspecified number of cabins to make way for larger business- class seats and modify the passengers emergency oxygen system (Associated Press 12).
United in Sioux City, US Air in Pittsburgh, ValueJet in the Everglades -- none of those accidents should have occurred if the FAA had its priorities straight, said Gail Dunham, president of the National Air Disaster Alliance & Foundation.
FAA aims to reduce the number of fatal accidents by 80 % over the next ten years. Beginning in June there will be a more thorough FAA inspection of jet engines. Aircraft inspections and the installation of enhanced ground warning system which alert pilots they are about to crash into the ground, mountains or sea are the required safety features for airplanes. Four thousand three hundred aircraft have already started installing the terrain-avoidance warning system (Hilkovitch 4). Improvements that are being made now should make travelers a litter safer in the air.
The many deaths of fatal accidents are mostly caused by the dishonest FAA inspectors. These statistics will go down because the problems will be solved and more improvements will be made so there are fewer fatal air crashes. Confidently the FAA is now heading in a more positive direction.