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In the wake of the crash of Continental Flight 3407, we ask whether the Federal Aviation Administration is effectively regulating the commuter airline industry.

In 1997 new rules were introduced by the FAA to make commuter flights safer. The rules were meant to respond to several problems. These included, pilots less experienced and less-trained than those flying larger jets, less thorough mechanical and safety inspections of the turboprops, less stringent rules regarding state of the art safety equipment and pilot fatigue. Throughout the 1980’s, there were problems with the safety of commuter airlines. In 1987, 58 people died in 10 fatal commuter airline accidents.

In 1997, soon after announcing her resignation as inspector general of the Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo stated:

”I keep seeing holes in the safety net – gaps in regulation and oversight,” Ms. Schiavo said. ”I won’t even fly commuter airlines because I don’t think they’re safe.”

The crash of Flight 3407 was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since Aug. 27, 2006, when 49 people were killed after a Comair jetliner took off from a Lexington, Ky., runway that was too short. The aircraft involved in the Comair crash was a 50-seat Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-100ER. Both crashes involved commuter flights. As we put the pieces together after this tragedy, let us hope that safety improvements for the operation of commuter flights are implemented.

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