Airline Inspections Get Closer Look

DOT says there is no place for "turning a blind eye" to safety in the skies.

ByABC News
April 18, 2008, 2:00 PM

April 18, 2008— -- Travelers bracing for more cancellations due to plane inspections ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration received reassurance today that the government is trying to fix the problem.

On Friday, the Department of Transportation and the FAA tackled aviation safety and air travel disruptions by announcing plans to clean up the FAA's faltering image.

"There is no place, no place at all in this agency, for anyone who is interested in turning a blind eye to the safety of our skies," said Mary E. Peters, secretary of the Department of Transportation.

Acting FAA administrator Robert Sturgell joined Peters for Friday's announcement.

"This is not a crackdown, it's not getting tough," Sturgell said of the ongoing inspection and maintenance audits. "It is simply trying to verify and demonstrate that the system we are using today is working and it's working effectively."

Peters announced a new program to alert local, regional and Washington, D.C., personnel when an inspection is overdue. She said the FAA also will create new national inspection teams to go to different areas to check that airlines are in compliance. They'll also designate senior FAA officials in field offices to sign off on voluntary disclosures to try to ensure the FAA isn't too cozy with the industry it regulates.

Given the more than 3,000 American Airlines cancellations in early April, both American and the FAA will be required to independently issue reports within 14 days detailing what happened. The transportation secretary said she doesn't believe there will be another situation as widespread as the FAA continues its inspection work.

"I absolutely don't think there was an overreaction," Peters said about the cancellations. She added that it's still important to take a closer look at the cancellations because "no one at all was well served by what happened last week."

To make sure other airlines are prepared in the event of more mass cancellations, the transportation department asked all carriers to make a plan to deal with groundings.