Apr 2, 2007
Planning a flight soon? The Federal Aviation Administration announced a plan this month to cut back the number of air traffic controllers.
Yet, in the last 10 years, miles flown have gone up 25%. Meanwhile, the number of airline employees has dropped by 25% and more than half the maintenance on major carriers has been outsourced.
In December 2005, a Department of Transportation report on airlines pointed out that the FAA had failed to inspect 1400 facilities for airline maintenance. In fact, the report said, “Neither the FAA nor the six air carriers we reviewed provided adequate oversight of the work that non-certificated facilities performed.”
Northwest Airlines might be the worst example of all the major carriers, cutting the number of mechanics they employ from 3600 to 900. Another carrier, a new one not named in the report, had added 60% more routes but cut maintenance by 14%.
So what did the FAA propose? The FAA had its excuses ready, replying that work is supervised by certified mechanics, even when those doing the work are not certified. The FAA proudly points to its new electronic safety system called Air Transportation Oversight System. The safety of the public now depends on a computer program, not on actual visits by FAA inspectors.
But the overcrowded air travel system is throwing more and more people onto more planes with less and less service and maintenance.
It might be time to take a train.