Cargo Jet Safety Is Faulted
Crashes of cargo planes are more likely to kill people than crashes involving passenger planes, yet federal regulators have largely ignored pleas to improve cargo plane safety, a newspaper’s investigation has found.
Critics say that safety regulators don’t pay much attention to the air cargo industry because fatalities in those crashes are often only of the pilot, the Miami Herald reported Sunday.
“I’m not sure why we need to wait until one crashes in the middle of Disneyland before people are going to take notice of the fact that these planes are going down,” said Lara Goldman Lennon. Her husband, Thomas, died when he crashed a cargo plane in 2004 near Baltimore.
The newspaper said it documented several cases of cargo planes flying with questionable maintenance and of pilots being pushed to fly when exhausted and without proper assurance that their planes were safe. It analyzed several cargo plane crashes over five years and said the crashes could be linked to a lack of maintenance or oversight of the pilot’s ability to fly.
Air cargo crashes are 50% more likely to kill people than crashes of similar planes carrying passengers, although crashes of large passenger planes would have higher death tolls, the newspaper also said.
The newspaper analyzed National Transportation Safety Board data from 2000 to 2005, company memos, court documents, and investigation and inspection files. It also conducted interviews with pilots and others in the industry.
Safety advocates complained that the Federal Aviation Administration had failed to address the industry’s problems.
“The Federal Aviation Administration spent very few resources on cargo oversight,” said Mary F. Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “It equals a greater risk, and sometimes it means a loss of life.”
The FAA said it had established a new unit to explore safety issues involving cargo planes and other aircraft besides large passenger jets.
The FAA also said that its regulations provide a high level of safety, but that “the primary responsibility for compliance with regulations and safe operations lies with the air carrier.”