Stopping problems before they start
FAA to overhaul inspection system, aiming to reduce number of accidents
May 13, 1998
Web posted at: 3:51 p.m. EST (2051 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two years after the crash of ValuJet 592 focused
criticism on the government's oversight of U.S. airlines, the Federal Aviation
Administration is overhauling its inspection system.
The aim is to reduce the number of accidents over the next ten years by 80
percent, by "raising the bar" of minimum safety standards, officials said Wednesday. Without an improvement, increased air traffic in coming years will mean a rise in the number of air crashes.
Under the current system, inspectors cover several air carriers. The new
system, dubbed the Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS), will give each
airline its own team of FAA inspectors who will get specialized training on
that airline's policies and procedures.
No longer will there be national guidelines for inspections that apply to
all airlines. Instead, the inspection team assigned to an airline will use a
flexible approach, taking into account that air carrier's weaknesses and
An FAA computer database will analyze safety trends to spot problems
before they result in an accident. The current FAA safety database does not do
"We know the current oversight system cannot produce the changes necessary
to significantly lower the accident rate," said FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
"In the past, we have focused on the symptoms. Now we will focus on the root
ATOS will be phased in over three years, beginning in October.
"By the end of this year, ATOS will begin to raise the bar above minimum
safety compliance with aviation safety standards and will help us achieve our
Safer Skies goal of reducing accidents by 80 percent over the next ten years,"
After ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Florida Everglades on May 11,
1996, the FAA inspection system came under fire for what critics said was a lax
oversight of airlines.
A White House commission created after the July 17, 1996 crash of TWA
Flight 800, estimated that unless the global airline accident rate is reduced,
there would be an airliner crash somewhere in the world almost every week by
the year 2015 because of increased air traffic.
By the year 2010, a billion people a year will fly on a U.S. airliner,
Initially, the ten largest U.S. airlines -- Alaska, America West, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, TWA, United and US Airways -- will be covered by the new
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