|Air Safety Abroad Not Always to U.S. Level
WASHINGTON (AP) - The
two jetliners that crashed in the past three days were both flying for new,
low-cost regional carriers, which are springing up around the world as
governments follow the U.S. lead and deregulate air travel.
A total of 281 people
died in the crashes of a West Caribbean Airways MD-82 in Venezuela on Tuesday
and a Helios Airways Boeing 737-300 in Greece on Sunday. Helios Airways was
founded in 1999 as Cyprus' first private airline. West Caribbean Airways, a
Colombian airline, began service in 1998.
"There's been a raft
of these low-cost carriers in South America and Asia," said Peter Goelz, former
managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. "The question is,
what's the level of oversight of these carriers?"
The answer: possibly
not as high as in the United States, which is experiencing the safest period in
There hasn't been a
major jetliner crash here since November 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587
lost its tail and plunged into a New York City neighborhood, killing 265
John Nance, a pilot
and aviation analyst, said there are two reasons for the United States' safety
record: standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration and the realization
by U.S. airlines that they must focus on safety.
After the U.S.
government deregulated air travel in 1978, Nance said, the country went through
a period where airlines that didn't pay close attention to safety went out of
"There was a weeding
out in the '80s of carriers that wouldn't or couldn't understand the necessity
for safety first," Nance said. "We got to the point where the airlines run by
people with some professionalism realized you can't scrimp on these things, you
The story is different
in some places outside the United States, where smaller countries are replacing
national carriers with American-style deregulation - sometimes with inadequate
At least half a dozen
African countries don't adhere to international safety standards. Last summer,
Ghana Airways was barred from flying into and out of the United States because
of concerns that its planes weren't safe.
standards are set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United
Nations agency headquartered in Montreal.
In 1992, the FAA
decided to make sure that airlines flying into the United States meet ICAO
safety standards. The agency began to assess whether non-U.S. civil aviation
authorities provide adequate safety oversight.
Twenty-six of the 100
countries that have been assessed don't meet ICAO standards. Most are in Africa,
South American and the Caribbean.
Goelz said he always
flies on major U.S. carriers to the Caribbean, even though it costs
"I'm not going to fly
some fly-by-night carrier that's going to get me to the Bahamas the cheapest,"
Goelz said. "If you're letting the travel agent book and you say, 'I want the
lowest possible fare,' that works OK in the U.S. and Canada, but I'm not sure
I'd use that in other parts of the world."
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