Essay on Safety Problems In Americas Commercial Airline Industry

Essay on Safety Problems In Americas Commercial Airline Industry

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1989 has been a year in which both aviation experts and spokesmen. For the flying public have expressed intensified concern over what they perceive to be a substantial deterioration in the safety of America’s passenger airline operations. In the first nine months of 1989 alone, there have been ten fatal air crashes involving large transport-category planes owned by U.S. based carriers (Ott p.28). This compares disfavorably to the first nine of months of 1988, when but two such accidents took place, and in fact, it is the highest number of death-causing accidents for the American commercial aviation industry during the 1980s (Fotos p.31). This spate of airborne tragedies has prompted interested parties to ask a series of disturbing questions. Is it now safe to fly on American owned airlines, and, related to this, is it now riskier to board these planes than it was before industry deregulation took place in 1978? What, if any, specific factors have contributed to the perceived decline in the industry’s safety standards? Finally, what, if anything, can be done to enhance the airworthiness of U.S. passenger planes and to improve the safety performance of the crews who man them? In this paper, all three of these questions will be addressed, and, without advancing too far ahead, we discover that there simply are no definitive answers to any of them.
     As serious accidents among America’s air carriers have mounted in 1989, a “conventional wisdom” has supplied a plausible account of the historical roots of the present safety problem. In 1978, the Federal government de-regulated the U.S. airline industry. Faced with an increasingly competitive environment, individual carriers tried to hold down fares by making cost-related cuts in policies and procedures related to safety. Many have argued that, “increased competition may lead airlines to skimp on investments in safety,”(Bornstein and Zimmerman p.913) by, for example, allowing aging planes to take to the skies following routine inspections rather than replacing them with new craft. But there is an overarching problem with this explanation: 1989’s accidents apart, empirical data suggest that it is currently safer to fly on a plane operated by a major U.S. air carrier than it was ten years ago! In 1978, the odds of a large airliner’s becoming involved in fatal crash were one for every milli...


... middle of paper ...


...ent labor terms, and taken together, may contribute to a second round of shakeouts, as weaker carriers will not be able to bear these costs and continue to be competitive.

          














Bibliography

Borenstein, Severin and Zimmerman, Martin B. “ Market Incentives for Safe Commercial Airline Operations,” The American Economic Review. Vol. LXXVII, No.5 (December 1988), pp. 913-936.
Fotos, Christopher P. “ Flight Safety Advances Hinge on Pilot Management Team Work,” Aviation Week & Space Technology Vol. CXXXI, No. 15 (9 October, 1989),
pp. 31-33.
Hoffer, William. “ Horror in the Skies,” Popular Mechanics. Vol. ClXVI, No.6 (June, 1989),      pp. 67-70.
McConnel, Malcolm. “ How Safe Are Commuter Airlines? Reader’s Digest. (June, 1988)      pp. 205-212.
Ott, James. “ 10 Fatal Crashes Spark Call for New Safety Measures,” Aviation Week &
Space Technology . Vol. CXXXI, No. 15 ( 9 October, 1989), pp.28-30.
“ Pilot Turnover Prompts Regional Airlines to Expand, Improve Training Programs,”
Aviation Week & Space Technology . Vol. CXXXI, No. 16 ( 16 Oct 1989), pp.91-93.

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