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Update: T+L Aviation Report Card 2002

Kenneth Mead, U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General For keeping the aviation industry, the FAA, and now the TSA on their toes with incisive reports and congressional testimony on security, safety, and service.

Paul Hudson, director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project (www.acap1971.org) For quietly working the corridors of power in Washington, advocating tougher safety requirements such as wider emergency exit aisles and fuel tank suppression systems.

Jet Blue For showing the industry and flying public that, yes, commercial aviation can still be fun (satellite TV), cool (in-flight Crunch yoga instruction), and lucrative (five consecutive profitable quarters since the New York—based carrier launched in February 2000).

Taking Matters into Your Own Hands: Aviation Safety Resources
The Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board post reams of data on their Web sites, but the information is so fragmented and incident-specific that it's hard to get a handle on whether one airline is any safer than another. The FAA does not provide safety rankings by carrier, nor does it announce when an individual carrier is under special surveillance for possible safety lapses.

As FAA spokesperson Les Dorr explains, "The majority of passengers care more about getting to their destination on time than about whether the plane is going to crash, because they take the high level of safety for granted." Representative John Mica, chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, disagrees. "We rate cruise ships on health-condition standards, and restaurants for sanitary conditions," he says. "But people can get on an aircraft and not know much about its safety. Creating a maintenance evaluation system that could be translated into some standard report that the public would have access to would be an excellent idea."

For the time being, there are some good resources for those who want to know more about aircraft safety, including the following:

 · www.boeing.com/commercial/safety Boeing launched this site early this summer.

 · www.aviationsafetyalliance.org Useful background information for aviation journalists from a consumer advocacy group.

 · www.airline-safety-records.com A site that ranks airlines for safety.

 · Flying Blind, Flying Safe by Mary Schiavo (Avon Books, $25). The outspoken former DOT Inspector General explores the way Washington and the airlines work.


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