Transportation Secretary Federico Pena pressed his new order to hold commuter planes to the same safety standards as large jets, but he strongly implied the move was designed to improve public confidence as much as air safety. "The fact is commuter airline safety has improved significantly and this year will probably be the safest year for the commuter airline industry," Pena said today. "But because it is a small industry that's grown over time, a lot of attention wasn't focused on it years ago." TIME contributor Jerry Hannifin, who covers space and aviation, says the order may prompt commuter airlines to listen to rank-and-file mechanics who know about real problems with the aircraft. Otherwise, he says, Pena's urgency is all PR: "It's a legitimate effort to try to restore public confidence. The (commuter) airlines are safe -- the industry safety record until October was virtually identical to that of the major carriers. But then the American Eagle crashes happened and there's a press feeding-frenzy."