Aviation: Fear of Flying

Commercial airlines have long boasted of their impressive safety record. But a Federal Aviation Administration report released last week lists numerous lapses in safety procedures, as well as sloppy inspections by the regulatory agency. No fewer than 16 airlines, including People Express and Alaska Airlines, were forced to cut back operations briefly after an industry-wide check last spring, and 172 pilots were temporarily grounded. Among the problems cited were undertrained mechanics and lack of proof that certain pilots were qualified to fly the aircraft they were operating.

Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole and FAA Chief Donald Engen insisted that the problems,...

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