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FAA: Whoops, we missed more than 100 airline safety reviews

Remember back in March when it was revealed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) let Southwest fly planes that hadn’t undergone proper safety inspections because the agency didn’t review the airline’s safety systems when it was supposed to?

Well, the Wall Street Journal (Subscription required), is now reporting that the FAA skipped more than 100 other airline safety reviews of major U.S. carriers, some of which should have been completed nine years ago. US Airways has the most incomplete FAA safety reviews of any airline, followed by American with 26, United with 15, and Alaska with 13. Southwest, Delta, Continental, and Northwest also have smaller numbers of overdue FAA safety inspections.

“The reviews in question are top-to-bottom examinations of dozens of different airline safety systems—ranging from flight-crew training to de-icing programs—that are supposed to be completed at least once every five years,” says the Journal. “The goal is to ensure that airlines have the right systems in place to identify potential hazards and deal appropriately with any they find.”

The FAA’s failure to complete these reviews came out after a Senate hearing in April when Sen. Patty Murray asked Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell if he was aware of other airlines besides Southwest that had missed safety reviews. In a letter written a few days later, Sturggell admitted to the more than 100 other overdue inspections, citing “inadequate resources” as a contributing factor.

The Wall Street Journal says that the missed inspections “don’t suggest imminent safety hazards are being overlooked. The focus is on whether carriers properly collect, analyze and act on operational safety data aimed at preventing accidents.” Peggy Gilligan, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety at the FAA, told the newspaper that conducting the five-year safety reviews didn’t become mandatory until 2007 (the reviews were recommendations before) and that the FAA “has developed a new tool that will alert senior officials when five-year reviews are overdue.”

Might I suggest Outlook reminders, or is Microsoft Office too pricey a resource for the government?

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