The Alaska 261
 Crash Findings

FAA: We're committed to airline safety


Published Dec 12, 2002, 09:05

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WASHINGTON, DC The following opinion piece by FAA associate administrator for Regulation and Certification Nicholas Sabitini appeared in this morning's issue of USA TODAY.

These words spoken at the National Transportation Safety Board's hearing on the tragic crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 bear repeating: ''Sound maintenance is the foundation of aviation safety.'' Ensuring the safety of the nation's skies is a responsibility shared by the entire aviation community.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is doing its part under the Air Transportation Oversight System by taking a comprehensive, robust approach to uncover the root cause of problems and have the airlines correct them before they lead to accidents.

Earlier this month, the agency mandated inspections and records reviews of aircraft that have been in scheduled service for at least 14 years. This action will extend a safe lifespan of older aircraft. Today, FAA inspectors have better tools to ensure airlines live up to their responsibility. Today, FAA analysts mine raw, critical safety data to spot troublesome trends within an airline's safety

 programs and to make decisions that may save lives. And today, the FAA has the geographic flexibility to move about as needed -- to have the right people in the right place at the right time.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew of Alaska 261. We know all too well that airline safety does not tolerate complacency, and the FAA is making continuous improvements to the safety system. Unique software that allows inspectors to prioritize airline-maintenance issues and to develop action plans is being tested at one of the major carriers and, once proven sound, will be deployed at the others.

All of this activity is a mere snapshot of what the FAA does to help thousands of airplanes fly millions of safe miles each day.

The FAA is upfront in saying that improvements are needed -- and are being undertaken. The NTSB and the Department of Transportation's inspector general are on record saying that these changes are on the right track. Ultimately, however, we know we can't do it alone. We look to the continued adherence, good faith and legal requirements of the industry to ensure that sound maintenance remains the foundation of safety. Nothing will ever supplant this collective responsibility



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