Tuesday, March 2, 2010

PBS Report on the safety of Regional Airlines and their coziness with the FAA

The PBS investigative series “Frontline” used the one year anniversary of the February 2009 crash of a Colgan Air Q400 (flying under Continental colors) as a springboard for an hour on the issue of regional airlines, their safety, and their relationships with their affiliated airlines and the FAA.

The very disturbing report reveals the reality of an industry plagued with low pay, high risk-taking, poor and inconsistent maintenance and low-time pilots. Yet, by slapping the logos of well known mainstream airlines, they project to the unknowing public an aura of quality by association. Nothing could be further from the truth...

The biggest takeaways from the report:

1) RISK - The airline operating the regional jets and turboprops, and the pilots up front, generally gets paid when the flight arrives at its intended destination. Weather diversions to another airport? No pay for that...

2) FATIGUE - Many of the regional airlines pilots are not paid very well, in fact they make less than janitors in public schools. Living under such budget constraints forces them to stay wherever is cheap - not necessarily close to work. This means long commutes before even reporting for flight.

3) FAA COZINESS - Airlines and their regulators are just too close. When we consider that regulators are in turn controlled by politicians in office who rely on campaign contributions from... airlines... you get the idea.

4) OBFUSCATION AND DOWNRIGHT MISREPRESENTATION - Airplanes bearing the logo of well-known mainstream airlines are not necessarily under that airline's control... They are under code share agreements and nothing else. The "Operated by" is in fine print. The public at large is unaware of this fact. Sort of slapping an "Armani" label on a Chinese garment.

Here is the PBS Video, worth watching

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