The Federal Aviation Administration routinely chooses between safety and economics and, usually, economics wins out. Not surprising, given the size and funding of the aviation industry.
A recent USA Today article highlights this inherent conflict. A link to the article is below. According to the article, USA Today’s investigation demonstrated that over 600 individuals lost their lives since 1993 in post-crash fires in small planes after initially surviving the accident that led to the fire. Many more were injured. And, they were using the term “crash” loosely. Many of the fires followed relatively minor incidents.
Most disturbing is the fact that in 1990 the FAA proposed new requirements both as to equipment and design that would save lives. According to USA Today, the cost was estimated at $556 to $5,710 for newly built aircraft. The FAA placed a $1 million value on each life and, collapsing under the pressure of the aviation manufacturers, withdrew its proposal.
Further, the FAA has consistently refused to reconsider its decision, even under pressure from the Canadian aviation safety authorities, which noted that the FAA’s dollar allotment was woefully low. And, let’s not ignore the fact that burning in a fire is a horrific and painful way to die. The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has raised its standards and has seen large reductions in post-impact fires in automobiles. Sadly, the FAA refuses to take similarly steps. And, until it does, the deaths will continue.