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PBS looks at safety of regional airlines

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  February 9, 2010 10:51 AM

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    Plane Into Home NTSB.jpgThe fatal crash of Continental Flight 3407 last February, a Continental Connector Flight run by Colgan Air, turned attention once again to questions about the safety of passengers on regional carriers.

   Tonight at 9 p.m. PBS's "Frontline'' will take a look at the issue in a program titled "Flying Cheap.'' The show will closely examine what happened on Flight 3407 and includes information from National Transportation Board investigations into the cause of the crash and interviews with many regional pilots, including former Colgan pilots.
     
   The question of the safety of regional carriers has been percolating for a while. Regional carriers were involved in all of the last half dozen fatal commercial airline accidents in the nation. And more and more passengers are flying on the regionals whether they are aware of it or not. In an attempt to save money, major airlines have increasingly been subcontracting routes to these companies -- so much so that about half of all domestic flights are now being covered by these smaller carriers. Passengers are ticketed on these flights by the majors and the planes bear the names of the larger airlines, but the contractors don't have to meet the standards for training and safety of the larger carriers.
       
    Tonight's show notes that the NTSB appears likely to cite pilot error as a significant factor in the Continental crash and that the regulators have already concluded that pilot error was a major cause in four of the past six fatal domestic airline crashes -- and remember all six involved regionals.

    "Flying Cheap'' looks at the training and lives of pilots on the regional carriers and offers a portrait of an underpaid, overworked, and undertrained workforce that holds the fates of a large segment of the American traveling public in its hands. Scary stuff but worth watching.


Associated Press photo of a simulation of the crash of Flight 3407 being shown to family members of victims during a simulcast in Cheektowaga, N.Y., of an NTSB meeting on the accident.


 

  

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