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DANGEROUS SKIES Airlines and Governments Cutting Corners

 article about DANGEROUS SKIES Airlines and Governments Cutting Corners

This article belongs to And That's the Way It Is column.


Given the parlous state of the world-wide aviation industry at the moment, I am not surprised that crashes such as recent crash events with the various types of aircraft ranging from Airbus A330s to Twin Otters are appearing to have become more common.

In terms of the airlines, the problem is that in order to remain profitable and in so doing to provide a better return for shareholders, all sorts of weird and wonderful cost-cutting measures are being employed in order to achieve those results in the process putting passenger lives at risk.

Some airlines have simply lost sight of the fine balance between passenger comfort and safety and profitability and I would even go so far as to say that, in my view, some airlines should not even be allowed to hold operator certificates these days, that's how bad some of them are.

There are a number of reasons as to why things have proceeded to the current, dangerous levels.

One is the advent of the so-called 'no-frills' airlines.

Hundreds of these operators, half of them knowing little or nothing about aircraft operation and air safety, began to offer very cheap fares worldwide thus taking away business off the so-called 'heritage' airlines.

In the process, service to passengers went down hill as went notions of air safety. Some of these operators survived to become major airlines while others simple disappeared. What was left was a regime of cost-cutting, surcharges, fancy gimmicks and bad operating procedures right across the spectrum with a few exceptions.

The second reason was the rise in fuel costs.

As the price of jet-fuel went up, passenger fares increased, service levels went down as did rigorous safety processes.

A third reason would be the current economic status of various countries and their airlines.

As passenger numbers declines, some airlines went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy only to come out merged with other airlines in so doing cutting staff and maintenance in the process.

Another reason for the chaos would have to be the lack of regulatory willingness to enforce regulatory and safety processes in so doing costing lives. In many countries aviation safety authorities have simply gone to sleep, literally.

And lastly, but more specifically, some airlines had knowledge of problems with computer and other systems contained within their aircraft without rectifying the problems quick enough, in so doing causing the deaths of many.

As to highlight instances I quote recent problems with Airbus A330 aircraft.

What is needed now, in my view, is the establishment of a transparent, accountable and properly funded international safety and operating authority with the powers to revoke airworthiness and operator certificates, and the authority to ban airlines from operating within its areas of responsibility and airspace.

The EU already has a version of such a system but I think that the scope and powers of such an authority needs to go much further and wider as to include a greater number, if not all, countries.

I also think that intending passengers should pay much closer attention as to what the safety record of airlines might or might not be. People should do much more research before they put their lives in the hands of airlines that may or may not be safe to fly with, remembering that the cheapest fares might not always be the best or the safest.

And on that note.

My name is Henk Luf
And That's The Way It Is




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