ATA Says Air Service for U.S. Carriers is Safer Than Ever

Improving Safety Remains Airlines’ Top Priority

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ — The Air Transport Association (ATA), the trade association of the principal U.S. passenger and cargo airlines, today told the Aviation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that airline travel is safer than ever and that the airlines remain committed to improving an already exceptional safety record.

ATA Vice President, Operations and Safety Basil Barimo testified that safety continues to be the airlines’ top priority. “Without question, scheduled air service is incredibly safe and our goal is to build on that safety record.”

Between 2002 and 2004, airlines providing 31 million scheduled commercial operations, known as Part 121 operations, carried nearly two billion passengers and recorded 34 fatalities. In 2004, the National Transportation Safety Board reported only one fatal accident in over 10 million scheduled departures.

Attributing this excellent safety record to increased reliance on data- driven analysis to understand, prioritize, and mitigate risks, Barimo said, “While there may be room for some improvement in the regulatory and oversight structure, it is, in fact, working.”

In his testimony, Barimo credited the joint FAA-industry Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) for leading the way in improving safety for air travel, noting that the CAST goal of reducing the fatality risk by 80 percent by 2007 is well in sight. “Some have suggested that the practice of using third-party maintenance impairs safety, but the facts simply do not support those claims,” said Barimo. “Simply put, there is no basis for the contention that safety suffers because airlines utilize third-party repair stations.”

Barimo added that effective and efficient maintenance programs play a key role in our outstanding safety record, and that airlines have developed comprehensive oversight systems to ensure that aircraft are maintained properly in accordance with FAA regulations and manufacturers’ standards. An important component of any airline’s maintenance program is third-party work provided by repair stations.

Barimo testified that the airlines are concerned over the impact that Very Light Jets (VLJs) will have on the safety of commercial airline operations when they are introduced in the near future. According to FAA estimates, 4,500 VLJs will be operating by 2016. These aircraft will impact scheduled airline service, because they will operate in the same busy airspace as commercial airlines, but travel at much slower speeds.

“The introduction of VLJs into airspace used for scheduled commercial operations raises questions about pilot qualifications and training, as well as maintenance and oversight,” said Barimo. “We need to look ahead, examine the risks and determine if current regulations and practices are adequate to ensure the safety of not only VLJ operators, but also the other users of the airspace.

“We are proud of our safety record, because it is the tangible result of our core operating principle — safety first. If there is one thing that binds ATA members together, it is their common interest in safety.”

ATA Airline Members: ABX Air, Inc., Alaska Airlines, Inc., Aloha Airlines, American Airlines, Inc., ASTAR Air Cargo, Inc., ATA Airlines, Inc., Atlas Air, Inc., Continental Airlines, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., Evergreen International Airlines, Inc., FedEx Corporation, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp., Midwest Airlines, Inc., Northwest Airlines, Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., United Airlines, Inc., UPS Airlines, US Airways, Inc.; ATA Airline Associate Members: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air Jamaica Ltd., Mexicana; ATA Industry Members: Aero Instruments & Avionics, Inc., Benfield Group, Bombardier Regional Aircraft, Cendant Corporation, Embraer, KPMG, Metron Aviation, Inc., Pratt & Whitney, SITA, TDG Aerospace, Inc., TIMCO Aviation Services, Unisys Global Transportation, USI Insurance Services, WinWare, Inc.

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