FAA: Expensive Safety Rules Don't Always Work
P H O E N I X, April 11 — Federal safety rules cost airlines a lot of money and may not always make traveling safer, a Federal Aviation Administration official said late on Wednesday.
At an airline conference where a Delta Air Lines Inc. official had complained about the surging cost of complying with FAA rules, a top FAA safety official conceded the Delta official had a point.
"We're sympathetic to the problem. We don't know if there is an easy solution," Dave Cann, FAA manager of continuous airworthiness maintenance, told Reuters.
"I do accept the [Delta] comment. It's well founded and I agree. But I don't have an answer on how to fix that right now," Cann said.
Cann noted that Congress ultimately sets the FAA's agenda, which includes a mandate for safe travel.
At the same conference on Wednesday, Delta Chief Operating Officer Frederick Reid said his airline, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, had spent $70 million complying with FAA airworthiness directives in 2001, five times what it spent in 1997.
"This is not a safety issue. Safety statistics for the industry have remained relatively constant despite the increased regulation and our industry has demonstrated over many years its commitment to safety," Reid said.
Airworthiness directives, often issued in cooperation with manufacturers, order changes as simple as swapping out certain parts more frequently or as complex as removing the tail of a jetliner to look for cracks deep inside the structure.
Officials of two other major airlines agreed that the FAA at times issues questionable orders, but both backed the agency's strong mandate for improving safety.
At No. 4 U.S. carrier Northwest Airlines Corp., which operates scores of jets more than 20 years old, the FAA has helped identify procedures to control corrosion and monitor aging wiring, which can create a fire hazard.
"We have a foot in both camps," said Kirk Thornburg, director of DC-9 fleet engineering at Northwest. "You'll get a very pure perspective that there were changes we needed to do and they've added quite a lot to our maintenance program.
"The foot in the other camp is I think I have seen individual ADs where I haven't quite seen the impact on my fleet in particular."
Some types of air safety directives are issued quickly and embraced by the industry immediately while other rules can take an eternity to develop.
For instance, the FAA has taken several years to update the number of hours commercial pilots can work in one day.
A post-Sept. 11 rule to strengthen cockpit doors on commercial planes to keep out intruders has triggered controversy between regulators and industry over costs, which could run into the tens of millions of dollars.
Industry officials typically want their concerns heard before implementing new rules, or at least they want to see solid data supporting the changes.
"There are a lot of good ADs [airworthiness directives]. But the data collection and the factual information are not always convincing that we are spending the money on the right location," said Nick Mateo, senior director, reliability, at Continental Airlines Inc.
Nobody likes spending millions to fix potential problems with their airplanes, but that is the price of putting safety first, Mateo said.
"When you pay a certain amount of dollars to go from point A to point B, your expectation is to arrive," Mateo said. "So safety is going to go first and we'll spend what we have to spend to make it happen."
Health Workers Getting New Info on Anthrax
W A S H I N G T O N, April 11 — Drug makers are arming their sales representatives with a brochure that describes anthrax in an attempt to help doctors and other health workers better identify and treat it.
The pilot program being launched today will distribute 20,000 of the guides in 13 cities: Albany, N.Y., Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, Hartford, Conn., Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tampa, Fla.
Physicians already had access to such information from a variety of government sources. For example, the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes anthrax and other potential bioterrorism agents.
Also, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality set up a Web site in January to train some 300,000 first-line doctors — such as primary care physicians, internists and pediatricians — to diagnose and treat those agents. That site provides free online education courses that earn doctors continuing-education credit, something important to meet licensing requirements.
The brochures will be dispensed by representatives of Bayer Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly & Co., and Pharmacia Corp., which also have set up a Web site.
— The Associated Press
Historian: Too Soon for Perspective on Sept. 11
A T H E N S, Ga., April 11— The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are still too recent to judge their impact on history, according to University of Georgia historian Ed Larson.
"We are still too close to it to have sufficient perspective on it," Larson said Wednesday in an Honors Day speech. "We historians should be more cautious in our judgments."
Larson, who won a 1998 Pulitzer Prize for a book on the 1925 Scopes trial, said the attacks "seared into our consciousness" but they did not set America's young people on a new course the way both World Wars did.
He said many Americans outside the terrorists' strike zones, such as the young students honored in Athens on Wednesday, are not saying the events changed their lives in a significant way.
"The collapse of Enron replaced the collapse of the twin towers in national headlines," Larson said.
"We will always remember that day, the way I remember the day JFK died. Let us resolve to make the best of it, and not let it make the worst of us," he said.
Larson's book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, won the Pulitzer for history.
The trial in Dayton, Tenn., over the teaching of evolution in public schools was one of the most publicized legal cases of the century and featured celebrated attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. Among the many journalists covering the trial was H.L. Mencken.
Some historians have compared the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the global shakeups seen in previous world wars. Students polled by Larson called the attack the most vivid memory of the academic year, closely followed in their minds by the Georgia Bulldogs' football victory over Tennessee.
He said it is too early to tell what changes the attack will force on American society, beyond a heightened awareness of world events and a necessary emphasis on public safety.
— The Associated Press