The Cost of Cheap Air Travel

Saturday, August 11, 2007
By George Hatcher

Hindsight is teaching Brazil some hard lessons. Some uncomfortable things are coming to light, like how the warning signs have been ignored. There’s a long trail of complaints about Brazilian aviation from the people in the system–(air traffic controllers, pilots, airport employees, etc.) that urgent major improvements were needed went ignored.

Airline safety relies on government-provided infrastructure. To put it simply, you can not skimp on airports. Things like long runways, grooved surfaces, overruns, planned SAFE approaches. Brazil dragging its feet is what killed nearly 200 people, no matter what the investigation says.

Airports need standards, and standards need to be enforced. Would the accident have happened on a longer runway that was properly surfaced? The pilots did NOT skid off the end of the runway. When they couldn’t stop, the pilots decided t get airborne again.

The mechanics of landing

When landing, a jet gets the main wheels onto the runway, which takes up 1000 or more feet of runway.

The pilot deploys the speed brake lever, then pulls the throttles into reverse thrust. This takes up runway at the rate of 200 feet per second.

So what happens when the jet brakes and the pilot realises it is too slick to stop? The pilot must get the engines back max power–was there adequate time and space for the Airbus to do this? Obviously not.

Are we following in Brazil’s footsteps?

The FAA is asking Congress to pawn off federal funding responsibilities for a national system through “user fees” (as our current FAA administrator has asked Congress to do).

Our amazing safety record comes from not skimping, not searching for cost-cutting measures. Will we continue to set the world safety standard or not? Only time will tell.

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