Aircraft Accidents and Surveillance Part Two

Too often I hear – and mostly from people who should know better – that the Department of Transportation and its various departments are the cause of all our travel woes. It’s easy to launch attacks against an entity that won’t fight back; after all, what’s the point? What I would suggest is that those who look to government as the lightning rod for … EVERYTHING … really don’t understand the transportation industry.
Look, I’m not a herald for the government employee; far from it. However it’s unrealistic to expect the Federal Aviation Administration to successfully get in front of an airline’s day-to-day issues; besides – technically – it’s not their job. DoT organizations like the FAA, Federal Railroad Administration, etc. are not commerce organizations; they cannot dictate how a transport operator does business; they’re there to assure said operator conducts themselves safely.
A common misperception – especially by the NTSB – is that the FAA must stand over an operator at all times. That’s unrealistic as will be looked into next week. But for now let’s look at the flight hour issues raised in the Colgan Airways flight 3407 or the UPS flight 1354 accidents.
UPS is a nocturnal airline; their fleet flies during the night hours to provide deliveries during the day. A pilot or mechanic applying to UPS for a job needs to understand … and accept this fact or the aviator should consider applying elsewhere. As long as the airline follows the rules as apply to flight hours, as a non-commerce agency, they cannot suspend the operations. I worked for FedEx for nineteen years; half my time as an aircraft mechanic was spent working through the midnight hours because that’s when the aircraft flew.
Let’s also observe the Colgan Airways flight 3407’s first officer’s cross-country odyssey; there isn’t anything negligent about her working (domiciled) out of Newark’s Liberty airport while living in Washington State. Many pilots at FedEx are domiciled in Memphis or Indianapolis, but live in another city and/or state; as long as they arrive at their domicile on time and ready for flight, the company wouldn’t interfere with choice of home. Again, the FAA cannot dictate where the pilot lives or even how much they are paid; that’s commerce and out of the FAA’s jurisdiction. It was the first officer’s decision to commute back and forth; Colgan was only concerned with her presence at flight time; it was her responsibility to be rested and on time.
Is that fair? Yes. Is it compassionate? Maybe, maybe not. The point is we are all adults in a grown-up, and often unforgiving, industry. The obligation to act responsible falls on the individual, especially if the operator is following the rules.

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