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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Grounded: Investigation Calls Airline Safety Into Question

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A recent investigation into the airline industry revealed some shocking information. First and foremost, planes have taken off and been used numerous times even after the FAA discovered maintenance problems, according to USA Today. The investigation estimates 65,000 flights took off when they shouldn’t have.

USA Today analyzed data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and found maintenance was "a cause, factor or finding" in 18 accidents since the beginning of January 2000. An example is United Airlines, which was fined by the FAA for operating a Boeing 737 jet "not in airworthy condition" on over 200 flights between February and April of 2008.

"Many repairs are not being done or done properly, and too many flights are leaving the ground in what the FAA calls ‘unairworthy,’ or unsafe, condition," said John Goglia, a former airline mechanic.

One possible reason repairs are not being done properly, if at all, is the rise in uncertified repair stations and mechanics. FAA regulations let airlines use uncertified repair facilities and mechanics, as long as a certified mechanic approves the repairs and the airline oversees them. However, these uncertified facilities aren’t required to be located in aircraft hangars or employ supervisors and inspectors to monitor their work. Due to cost-cutting efforts, the number of uncertified repair stations has more than doubled in the past 15 years.

As a licensed pilot, I fully appreciate the challenges of operating an airplane and have great sympathy for airline pilots who have to handle these defective planes. They are put at higher risk, along with the passengers, for a serious injury from a major aviation accident because of this shoddy repair work.

The FAA needs to step its game up and exert some genuine oversight on what repairs have been completed and what needs to be done for each and every U.S. airline. The safety and peace of mind for passengers and airline pilots requires strong, deliberate action to resolve this issue.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.