Monday, August 29, 2011

Unfinished Business

As we share the grief of families and friends of the victims of Comair flight 5191, there is an even better way to memorialize them than the beautiful monument in the UK Arboretum.

That is: to try to make sure those errors which caused the tragedy, most of which should never have happened, don't happen again and plunge another community into grief.

The National Transportation Safety Board's probe into the disaster, headed by a lady with Kentucky ties, Deborah Hersman, did its job. It recommended ten changes to improve aviation safety to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) That is the way the law works...unfortunately. The NTSB investigates, finds, and recommends to the FAA. But only the FAA can put those safety recommendations into place, and its record of doing so over many, many years is truly dismal. (So far it has only approved half of those recommendations in five years).

I've never understood why the NTSB can't force such safety changes, but it can't. For a lot of reasons, many are grounded in inefficiency and operating as an adjunct to the aviation industry, rather than as an advocate for passengers, the FAA stands at the very top of federal agencies I would abolish.

That's probably not going to happen--more's the pity--but in the meantime there are things that can be done. For one, Congress could pass a law saying that if the FAA doesn't put the NTSB's safety recommendations into effect within six months or so, without some compelling reasons not to, they go into effect anyhow. Better still, Congress could allow them to become law unless overruled by Congress within a similar period of approach which has been used with considerable value in military base closing issues.

The FAA already has too much to do, and this part, safety, it does badly.

If Senators McConnell and Paul, and Congressman Chandler want to make sure an event such as Comair 5191 doesn't happen again, those are two ways they can truly memorialize those we have lost.

I'm just sayin'...

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