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NEWS STORY
Security at safety's expense?
 
By RICHARD DOOLEY
The Daily News

An airline safety organization is worried security concerns aboard passenger planes is overshadowing aircraft safety.

Lyn Romano, founder of the International Aviation Safety Association, an organization started after the death of Romano’s husband Ray aboard Swissair Flight 111, says safety issues seem to have a lower priority following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington, D.C., and New York when hijackers used box-cutters to commandeer four planes, sending one into the Pentagon and crashing two others into the World Trade Center in New York. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Flight 111 plunged into the ocean near Peggy’s Cove on Sept. 2, 1998 killing all 229 people on board. The cause of an electrical fire that burned for 20 minutes before the crash is still under investigation.

“Safety issues are on the back-burner,” Romano said from her New York home yesterday. “Security is the main concern.”

Romano said the resources of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are consumed by security issues in airports and on board planes.

The NTSB issued fire safety recommendations Friday based on the investigation of four airplane fires over the last 19 years.

At least one of those fires could have been a lot worse if it happened during today’s tougher security regimes at airports.

In November 2000, an American Airlines MD-80 was struck by lightning as it left Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Thick black smoke began pouring from ceiling panels in the passenger compartment, but crew members were unable to get at the fire above the light fixtures until a passenger produced a knife and cut a hole in the plastic panel. A fire extinguisher doused the electrical fire and the plane landed moments later with no injuries.

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