Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Magazine Says Many Airlines Sometimes Fly Unfit Plane

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Magazine Says Many Airlines Sometimes Fly Unfit Plane

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) _ Millions of passengers have departed American airports flying planes unfit to leave the ground, Conde Nast Traveler said in a report to be published in the magazine's August issue.

Leaky hydraulic pumps, tangled oxygen masks and other violations have not been enough to stop the planes from taking off, but have brought airlines millions of dollars worth of fines in the past eight years, the magazine said, citing Federal Aviation Administration documents.

Every major airline has been fined for maintenance violations since 1986, Conde Nast said.

Airline industry executives, asked for comment on the article, reiterated that flying is safe. Back-up systems can prevent crashes and only 3.6 percent of U.S. jet crashes between 1983 and 1993 were attributed to poor maintenance.

"We've been virtually accident free for the past two years and our record stands for the world to emulate," said Ed Merlis, spokesman for the industry's Air Transport Association. "When they do happen, they pay with their lives and their business reputation."

The magazine article was the second slap at airlines in a week. Consumer Reports said in its latest issue that almost a quarter of commercial flights don't meet a basic standard for air freshness. The magazine said the stale air means people are more likely to suffer respiratory irritation, headaches and fatigue.

But the safety concerns raise a ticklish problem the airlines have been fighting since they first started flying. Airlines routinely say safety is their top priority.

Critics say maintenance is an easy place for airlines to save money.

"The airlines are hurting economically, and one of the fist places they cut is maintenance. They defer a lot of maintenance jobs, and FAA inspectors do a bare minimum of inspections," Conde Nast quoted Leo Janssens, president of the Aviation Safety Institute.

Delta Air Lines was fined $2.5 million by the FAA in November 1992, the second-largest fine levied against an airline. Delta negotiated the fine down to $1.5 million.

Among the violations found by the FAA and cited by Conde Nast: Delta was cited for flying an L-1011 jet for two months beyond the time limit for replacing engine blades. …

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