The FAA

The FAA has hindered the development of airline safety because of its policy of safety, its regulation of the airline industry, and it needs to be separate from the Department of Transportation.
The FAA has hindered the development of airline safety because of its policy of safety. Part of its policy is the cost-benefit rule, which was an executive order issued by President Ronald Reagan in February 1981. This rule stated that the FAA could issue new rules only if they could show the potential economic benefits outweighed the likely costs. (Calonius, 91) This rule made it hard to justify any significant advance in safety on older airplanes because the costs may not be able to be recovered by the end of its service life. “The cost-benefit rule has served as a roadblock to safety and an excuse for inaction. The time has come to revoke the Reagan order and try a different, more rational approach to airline safety.” (Nader and Smith, 317)
The FAA’s policy of problem solving has also hindered the advancement of airline safety. The FAA has not tried to solve a problem until after a problem has already occurred. They have not tried to prevent problems when it may impose a high cost on to the airline industry either. In August 1990 the FAA issued a rule that required airlines to install fire-resistant cabins into new planes. The materials were also supposed to be installed into the cabins of in-service planes that required a “significant” amount of the cabin replaced. The FAA failed to define what a substantial amount of the cabin was. The airlines also weren’t required to report the materials that were installed. This problem was not corrected until 1991, after Pan Am flight 811 had an electrical fire in the cabin. Three people received severe burns, while many others
inhaled smoke and poisonous gases. The amount of smoke and gases could have been reduced if the proper cabin materials had been installed. (Oster, 245-46) This rule was changed soon afterward to remove the loopholes.
Another part of the FAA’s safety policy that has hindered airline safety is the way it enforces the safety rules. The FAA uses investigators to enforce its safety rules. These inspectors are supposed to have knowledge in electronics, composite materials, along with many other things that help them to gauge the quality of aircraft. Many of these inspectors are grossly underqualified because the FAA’s training courses are very obsolete.
“The FAA Academy in Oklahoma City required students in FAA-approved maintenance schools to be knowledgeable in such topics as wood airframes, airframe fabric repair, and the application of paint and dope. The words computer and composite do not appear in the list of required curriculum subjects.” (McClellan, 9)

It’s no wonder the inspectors missed the stress cracks in the fuselage of Aloha Airlines Flight 243. A section of the roof peeled back at 24,000 feet, flung one crew member into the ocean, and seriously injuring ten other people. The inspector also missed the fact that the plane was the second oldest plane that was currently in operation.
The next reason the FAA has hindered the development of airline safety is its regulation of the airline industry. The FAA needs to regulate the hub-and-spoke routing system. This system involves multiple takeoffs and landings during one trip. The multiple takeoffs and landings which occur during the hub-and-spoke routing system dramatically raise the risk of an accident because about 80% of all accidents happen during takeoffs or landings. (Phillip and Talley, 251) The hub-and-spoke routing system also involves smaller, commuter aircraft. These smaller aircraft are more dangerous because they have less safety and backup systems, fewer safety standards, and overworked pilots.
The FAA’s regulation of airline competition has hindered the advancement of safety in the airline business. The FAA needs to improve the control over the competition because the airlines lower ticket prices to drive out rival companies, but their cost of operation stays the same. This lowers their profit margin and then the airlines falsify maintenance records to save money. This price war lead to nearly $8 billion of loses to the airline industry. (Ott, 124) These loses make it very hard for airline companies to buy new planes or