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MU-2 Opponent Calls For Replacements Of Blakey, Rosenker

Fri, 08 Sep '06

Tancredo Says Failure To Act Is Responsible For Hundreds Of Deaths

Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo -- a fierce critic of the Mitsubishi MU-2, and what he calls the government's inaction in dealing with what he terms the plane's inherent safety problems --  has called for the Bush Administration to replace Marion Blakey as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Mark V. Rosenker as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"As far back as the spring of 2005, I asked the FAA to 'ground' the Mitsubishi MU-2 series aircraft due to its shockingly high accident rate," said Tancredo in a letter sent Friday. "Because [they] have consistently failed to take appropriate action on this issue despite repeated warnings about the aircrafts suitability for use, I believe the public would be well served if they were replaced by administrators willing to act swiftly and deliberately on this matter."

Tancredo cites estimates as many as one-quarter of all MU-2s produced have crashed, resulting in the deaths of more than 250 people in nearly 200 separate incidents in the US alone. 

In the past month, two MU-2s have gone down in Florida. Weather is believed to have played a role in both accidents. (Read the NTSB Preliminary reports on these accidents here and here.)

The MU-2 is "a complex aircraft requiring operational techniques not typically found in other light turboprop aircraft," the FAA said in its most recent safety proposal, issued in January. "Fully understanding the system complexity is much more critical during an emergency situation."

"An MU-2B pilot is seven times more likely to lose control and have a fatal accident during an emergency when compared to pilots flying similar types of airplanes in similar situations," the agency added.

"We don't believe there is a safety issue with the airplane itself," said FAA spokesman Les Dorr Jr. "It meets its original certification standards. We continue to believe that if pilots are properly trained to fly this airplane, this airplane can be flown safely," Dorr added. "We want to make sure the pilot training is standardized and mandatory."

The agency stopped short of recommending a type-rating for the aircraft -- something that the airplane's manufacturer has supported.

"Additional training for pilots is helpful, but is not a sufficient solution given the MU-2's crash statistics," Tancredo said after the FAA issued its ruling. "Grounding the aircraft remains the optimum solution, but this is a good first step for the FAA, who, like a recovering alcoholic, has taken the first step of admitting that there is a problem."

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