Posted: 04/11/08 11:11
by Dave Mindeman
A lot of airline passengers are grumbling and staring down the departure boards at airports these days. A crackdown by the FAA on inspection reports has been a set back for the flying public.
In a way, Congressman Oberstar may have been slightly responsible -- in a small way. He seems to be taking his job of oversight seriously....and its about time someone did.
We have not had a major airline incident since 2001 (although we have had a disturbing number of small plane crashes), but that may be more happenstance luck than giving kudos to the airline industry. The recent revelation that Southwest Airlines had skipped inspections was an eye opener for many. And it begged the obvious question -- how many more "shortcuts" have been taken?
I flew to New Orleans over spring break and on the flight back while sitting on the tarmack waiting to take off, we got one of those little captain "announcements" ---
"Ladies and Gentleman, the co-pilot will be walking through the cabin to get to the rear of the plane. He will be making a visual inspection of a puddle of liquid underneath the wing. We want to make sure we are not leaking hydraulic fluid."
Now, I am not a calm flyer and my knuckles turned a new shade of white as I watched the unifomed pilot march to the back. My mind gets unusual thoughts in these situations -- "Why don't you have somebody lick the tarmack? You can taste oil for pete's sake? A visual inspection? What's that going to tell you? Are you guys crazy? You can't let this fuselage of death take off!"
Well, after about 15 minutes, the captain's voice came back and the ground crew had indeed, tested the puddle, and it turned out to be only condensation from high altitude during the previous flight.
My knuckles went back to their normal shade of white and the plane flew back to Minneapolis without incident.....although I was listening carefully for any unusual landing gear sounds.
The point here is, the flying public is completely dependent on the airlines and its overseers all doing their jobs. The profit margin in the industry is tight and temptation is high to cut back on costs whereever they can. It's just that safety can't be one of those places. The FAA has to make sure that shortcuts aren't taken in that area.
That is why Congressman Oberstar is the right man for the job.