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Hearing on "Critical Lapses in FAA Safety"

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:57 pm    Post subject: Hearing on "Critical Lapses in FAA Safety"
From Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:00 pm to Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:00 pm (included)
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National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation

(888) 444- NADA - phone

The U.S. House of Representatives

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Thursday, April 3, 2008 - 10:00 am

Oversight and Investigations Hearing on

"Critical Lapses in FAA Safety Oversight of Airlines:

Abuses of Regulatory 'Partnership Programs'"

Thank you to Congressman James L. Oberstar (MN-D), Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, for holding this important Hearing. Thank you to whistle blowers Charalambe ("Bobby") Boutris and Douglas E. Peters who will be the first to testify at 10:00 am. Oberstar said the investigation had revealed the worst safety lapse he had seen in 23 years. Nineteen people will testify so it will be a long day.

The purpose of the Hearings is to examine the FAA Oversight of the Voluntary Self Disclosure Program.

The FAA Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program (VDRP) allows airlines to report to the FAA when they uncover a problem, in lieu of FAA inspections.

Hearings can be viewed live at http://Transportation.House.gov

Hearings are scheduled to be covered during the day by CNN, news networks, and possibly C-SPAN depending on House and Senate schedules. C-SPAN may re-air the Hearings over the weekend.

Check www.c-span.org (Click on Schedules and TV Schedules) for time and date information. .

After 9/11 about 20% of the commercial aircraft were retired so there were fewer aging aircraft in the system and the FAA instituted voluntary and self-inspections for the airlines.

Mid-March 2008 Southwest Airlines (SW) cancelled flights and grounded 8% of their fleet for allowing aircraft to fly while not in compliance with federal aviation maintenance requirements. Cracks in the fuselages were ignored and SW had "missed" inspections as long as a year ago. Southwest said it voluntarily disclosed its maintenance violations, but Congressman Oberstar said the law requires that planes be grounded until they are in compliance.

After the SW lapses in maintenance became public the FAA temporarily departed from their "airline voluntary reporting program" and sent inspectors out to their regions. Since then American, Delta and United have reported hundreds of cancelled flights, grounded aircraft, and airlines announced joint safety audits with the FAA and airlines. These "audits" are expected to continue to June as there are so many airplanes to inspect and the inspections are long overdue.

We need YOUR help. Call or write your Member of Congress and U.S. Senators and tell them aviation safety is being compromised. The FAA is not doing their job. Airlines have not been complying with Airworthiness Directives and been allowed to fly in violation of federal aviation regulations. "Self inspections" and cozy relationships with the airline and FAA are not serving the traveling public.

To reach your Congressman and Senator go to: www.House.gov and www.Senate.gov

NADA/F was founded by air crash survivors and family members who have paid the ultimate price for aviation disasters. Many of us have lost family members and learned that aviation disasters are preventable. We feel strongly that airplanes that are not in compliance with federal Airworthiness Directives should not be allowed to keep flying while they receive a "wink and a nod" from the FAA.

Matt Ziemkiewicz



Gail Dunham

Executive Director



Thank you to USA Today for their excellent Editorial.

USA Today: Our view on air safety: Did FAA coddle Southwest?

March 12, 2008

When inspectors become too cozy with the airlines, safety is threatened.

The flying public has seen the disastrous results when the government's airline watchdog fails to hold carriers to strict safety standards.

In 1996, a ValuJet plane plunged into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 aboard and ultimately revealing a virtual collapse of safety regulation.

Four years later, an Alaska Airlines jetliner crashed, killing 88. The Federal Aviation Administration had ignored warnings of shoddy maintenance and, in 2002, a federal investigation concluded that the FAA had "failed miserably" in policing the airline.

Both times, the FAA promised to change its ways. But now, allegations by two FAA inspectors are raising the issue that was at the heart of the previous breakdowns: Is the FAA coddling a major airline it is supposed to regulate?

The whistle-blowing inspectors have charged that FAA supervisors ignored safety violations at Southwest Airlines and tried to impede investigations of the carrier - accusations with ominous implications for fliers.

The disclosures began to tumble out last week after the FAA announced that it had fined Southwest $10.2 million for flying 46 jets on more than 60,000 flights in 2006 and 2007 without performing required inspections for cracks in the fuselage. The penalty, the largest in the agency's history, looked like tough medicine.

But the back story - as told in memos and by Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., whose committee has investigated the matter - raises troubling questions.

The two whistle-blowers, C Bobby Boutris and Douglas Peters, complained repeatedly last year that their concerns about Southwest were being downplayed by a top supervisor. One said he raised questions as early as 2003 about Southwest's ability to keep up with mandatory inspections.

Boutris and Peters say FAA supervisors overseeing Southwest safety maintenance were too close to airline management. One former FAA inspector had moved to a top job in Southwest's compliance department. In a memo to Congress last fall, Boutris wrote that the FAA tightened its oversight of Southwest only after congressional investigators began asking questions. The Southwest fine was levied days before Oberstar planned to hold a hearing on the whistle-blowers accusations. That hearing is now set for April 3; other authorities are investigating the episode.

Southwest, which has put three employees on administrative leave, denied any safety issues with its planes. At the FAA, officials acknowledged "a breakdown" by its staff in this case and have reassigned two managers in the office that oversees Southwest. But they argue there's no reason to tar the entire agency.

That's true. Since 2001, the U.S. airline industry has had remarkable safety record, thanks, in part, to vigilance by airlines and regulators. But new rumblings and old realities suggest it's time the FAA adopted changes to prevent government inspectors from getting too cozy with the airlines they oversee. These might include a cooling-off period before inspectors can jump to an airline job, or rotation of inspectors and supervisor among different airlines.

To succeed in its mission to ensure passenger safety, the FAA needs to monitor both jetliners and its own people.



National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation

2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW #315

Washington DC 20006


NADA/F Mission: To raise the standard of safety, security and survivability for aviation passengers and to support victims' families. Founded 1995.
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