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ROUNDTABLE With key people from this report

In a follow-up to Flying Cheap, FRONTLINE is examining the rapid growth of contract maintenance in the airline industry, as carriers outsource more of their work to third-party repair stations, domestically and abroad. If you work in the MRO industry and would like to share your experience and insights, please contact us at:
Rick Young February 9, 2010 20:14
Rick YoungProducer, "Flying Cheap"

Read Colgan Air/Pinnacle's response to FRONTLINE's report.

Trying to distill seven months of research and reporting into a one-hour documentary is, to say the least, a frustrating proposition. But no less frustrating, I'm sure, than the drill we put our program participants through: interviews that often go on for hours, with the full knowledge, patience and trust that we'll boil it all down fairly and accurately.

I'm sure some will say we didn't get the job done right and, in part, that's why we've asked several key participants to join us here, at FRONTLINE's second post-broadcast online roundtable. We want feedback on the show, what we got right, what we didn't and what we missed altogether.

But most of all, we're here in hopes of extending the conversation. Though we've tried to be accurate and fair, our primary objective is to raise questions about safety in the regional airline industry that are important to all of us. Some of our participants have dedicated their lives to improving airline safety. And, while there may be differences over what kinds of changes may or may not be needed, the ultimate goal is commonly shared.

So, I look forward to continuing the conversation about Flying Cheap.

United Airlines Mechanic February 10, 2010 21:17

Thank You for providing the Public witn such important infornmation. As an Aircraft Maintenance Technician with United Airlines, I would like you to follow-up on this story with an investigation on Aircraft Maintenance. United Claims that Safety in their number one Priorty, but this is a Lie. All that United really Cares about is getting the Planes out "On-Time". United does not want you to Find any kind of Faults with the Planes. I have been Threatened, Harassed, intimidated, cussed...(continue reading »)


Chris Wiken February 9, 2010 22:37
Chris WikenFormer pilot for Colgan Air

I am honored to be a part of this documentary. It was a pleasure being a part of it and working with Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Young, Ms. Rentz and the rest of the crew. Now having seen the entire documentary, I am even more satisfied for having participated. They have given us a comprehensive look at all the issues involved, albeit some briefly. I truly believe hours of airtime could be spent on a story like this one and not cover it fully. To do what has been done here in only an hour broadcast is truly commendable. Much more could be said about regulations, fatigue and traning issues. I am happy to see that transcripts of the full interviews are available online along with further investigative material. Thanks to all of you for putting this together. Thank you to the underwriters for making it happen. Thank you to all of you that have watched. I truly hope that positive change comes from what was broadcast here today.

Will Chau February 11, 2010 1:12

Your bravery to appear on the show is commendable. Often, others fear retribution from thier employers for being outspoken about sensitive issues that may affect thier ability to maintain "face" with the public and thier customers. I too, flew as a Regional pilot for American Eagle Airlines. I witnesses these same "pressures" placed on crews to fly in unsafe situations, such as being pressured to work when calling in sick or being pressured to fly an aircraft with 3 or...(continue reading »)


Loretta Alkalay February 10, 2010 9:44
Loretta Alkalayformer FAA regional counsel

A fine example of the continuing need for investigative reporting.  Rick Young and Miles O'Brien have done an outstanding job of marshalling the data in a lucid, engaging and thought-provoking manner.  I hope it also results in action.  At a minimum, passengers who view this segment will look more closely at who is actually operating the plane they're flying.  When passengers start voting with their pocketbooks, change may follow.

M.A.O. February 11, 2010 13:47

As a former FAA regional lawyer how do you justify the actions and in-actions of the FAA? Why does the FAA go against their own rules (2150.3A CHG 31) and pick and choose which pilots they decide to prosecute to the full extent while others due to their relationship with management get away with far more egregious actions and behaviors? How do you justify to the US taxpayers the multiple frivolous certificate actions the FAA engages in but in the...(continue reading »)


Mary Schiavo February 10, 2010 14:33
Mary Schiavoformer inspector general, DOT

Many times I have stated, and I very fervently believe, that one of the most important forces for aviation safety is the First Amendment. Without probing and impartial programs like Frontline, most of what goes into aviation safety would never be discernable by the flying public. Key information about aviation safety is purposely kept from the flying public by the airlines with the active assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration. Many key elements of safety are not available when you file a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) with the federal government. For example, an airline pilot's experience, qualifications, training, discipline and failed FAA examinations are not disclosed. The FAA will not tell the flying public about violations and investigations (the exception is that the FAA will make public fines over $50,000, but not the airlines' records concerning the violations). Who is performing the airlines' maintenance, and where? They won't tell you. Even which airlines have the worst accident and fatality rates are not revealed to the flying public. Thus, being a commercial airline passenger is not an endeavor in which we can be informed and discerning consumers, selecting safety with our economic choices. We have to rely on the airlines and the FAA. But, so much is subcontracted out that often our faith is misplaced, particularly now that more than half of the US flights are flown by subcontractor carriers hired by the majors. Regionals have to carry out the flights at the lowest cost possible, even if that means the first time your pilot has actually felt a stick shaker and pusher is when he or she has a planeload full of souls relying on the training and experience in the cockpit.
Miles O'Brien and his team on this piece are at this juncture in history among our most important forces for safety. The lobbyists and special interests in Washington have compromised the independence of Congress and the FAA. The airlines complain their economics drive the present deplorable conditions in the airline industry and to do something different than their competitors would be economic suicide. Spending more on safety than competitors would hurt shareholder value, or so they claim. When an accident happens, air carriers' insurance policies pay the loss and even pay the airlines' cost of defense to fight the families of the victims. No publicly traded carrier has ever stated in SEC filings that its bottom line was impacted by a crash. Thus, it is unlikely airlines are going to change the situation. We need someone to lay bare the facts and show a concerned nation the gravity of the situation and what we need to to about it. It is sad that leadership does not come from Washington, but I am thankful it has come from Frontline. You did a great job and this program will help insure that the lessons learned from the tragic loss in Buffalo and the other recent regional carrier accidents will help to improve safety for the traveling public. Thanks again Miles and team.

Harold Coghlan February 10, 2010 19:14

I agree with Ms. Schiavo, completely, that the FAA is out of touch and out of their "depth of knowledge" when they try to oversee the nation's aviation safety. Just as Ms. Schiavo found out, and exposed in her book, the FAA is "rotten to the core", starting at the highest levels, and going down to the FSDO Offices, where Inspector abuse, theft, graft, falsification and personal gratification run rampant. I have written proof of FAA Inspectors commiting theft, fraud,...(continue reading »)


Rick Young February 13, 2010 10:07
Rick YoungProducer, "Flying Cheap"

It's been gratifying to see the enormous response to the program. The Discussion section on our Web site has really lit up and most of the comments are detailed, informed and quite varied.

All the same, I've been a bit surprised we haven't had more discussion taking place here at the Roundtable, where a number of industry experts had been invited to participate. In particular, I'm disappointed that the regional industry hasn't weighed in (Mr. Cohen has a standing invitation) and others, like Mr. Sabatini and Mr. Swelbar haven't stepped forward. I have little doubt they've got useful perspectives to offer.

But, at least, we now have the perspective of Colgan Air, which, as we noted in the program, declined the opportunity to interview. As you might guess, I've got lots to say about what they've said. But for now, I'll leave it to others to comment on.

Here is Colgan Air's reaction to the program.

b February 13, 2010 12:08

U.S. business in general has not distinguished itself and passenger aviation in particular is horribly deficient in customer service. There is no doubt in my mind that financial losses compromise safety. Where there is smoke there is fire and I will make every effort to avoid flying but especially to avoid flying on regional airlines like the one mentioned in this news report....(continue reading »)


Loretta Alkalay February 14, 2010 8:38
Loretta Alkalayformer FAA regional counsel

A number of commenters have posted their frustrations with reporting violations to the FAA. I obviously can't comment on these specific situations but I can offer some general advice on how to report violations to the FAA.

In order for the FAA to pursue a complaint of a violation, it needs evidence that demonstrates that a violation may have occurred and that the violation warrants enforcement action. The more clearly an alleged violation is presented and documented, the easier it is for the FAA to decide that the allegation merits investigation.

My suggestion from years at the FAA, is that serious safety violations reported by the public are most likely to be investigated by the Agency if they are: (1) clearly articulated in writing and signed by the individual with contact information; (2) detailed as to date, time, flight number, etc and (3) contain corroborating documentation, such as aircraft logs, load manifests, flight and duty time records, training records, names and contact info for witnesses, etc, as applicable.

BW February 14, 2010 19:37

I am responding to Colgan Air's letter to its employees regarding this program. As a person in the industry, I know for a fact that there have been major airline pilots that have had to ride the jumpseat in the flight deck of Colgan Air since the accident last year and have said that they had to intervene to prevent almost a similar accident from happening again!! So if you say that Colgain Air and the FAA who governs the...(continue reading »)


Scott Maurer February 16, 2010 7:53
Scott MaurerFather of Lorin Maurer - Passenger 3A on Continental Flight 3407

On February 12, 2009 at approximately 10:17PM the world as I knew it was
turned completely upside down when Continental Flight 3407 plummeted to the
ground and 51 lives were lost. When something so horrific happens to a
family you can either withdraw, get mad, or try to make something positive
from a bad situation. Such has been the effort of the Families of 3407.
Many of us have experienced much sadness and anger. These emotions are
natural to all of us. But in the end it is our desire that our Loved Ones
be honored by bringing about change so that no other family will experience
a loss like ours due to the shortcomings uncovered in Regional Airline
safety. The Frontline story features many of these shortcomings in a way
that all of us can relate. There is no political spin or corporate cover,
just ordinary people telling it like it is.

Following the accident last year I have interviewed countless numbers of
pilots of both the Major airlines as well as the Regionals. In
overwhelming response these people advise me of the very issues and
concerns that Frontline has brought to light in their feature report. Low
wages, fatigue, limited training, and pushing pilots beyond their current
competencies are all source issues involved in our accident. Sadly these
same issues have been reported as issues in previous accidents but without
effective corrective actions by either the Airlines or the FAA.

As a family member who lost a Loved One I hope that my participation in
this roundtable can add the human perspective of the passenger. People buy
plane tickets to get from point "A" to point "B". They do so with the
complete belief that flying is SAFE because there are folks out there
watching out for us. Again sadly we find that the push for profits is
putting us at risk and taking unfair advantage of pilots and crew members
who have a passion for a career in Aviation.

Keith February 16, 2010 23:39

Wow...I'm stunned after having watched this report and even more stunned by the arrogant Colgan letter to its employees. It's clear that Congress has to tether the major airlines back to the regionals to ensure that safety standards are consistent. Maybe then companies like Continental, Delta, US Airways, American, etc. will step in to ensure that safety, not profit, is the highest priority. I'm still shocked after having watched it. Never has anything moved me to the point of canceling...(continue reading »)


Chris Wiken February 23, 2010 10:13
Chris WikenFormer pilot for Colgan Air

Thank you to those of you that have sent in comments regarding my appearance on this documentary. I know many of you in the pilot community have gone through similar experiences. I am sure hundreds if not thousands of others could have appeared in my place and shared stories of their own. We all know the bottom line is that the system needs to be fixed. Unfortunately to do this it will require a lot of work and a lot of money. No change comes cheaply in this industry. Hopefully this program and the efforts of many others can help facilitate this change.

Dabra Grant May 27, 2010 17:10

Regardless of what industry it is, as long as profit for a particular company or person(s), is the underlying motivation that impacts, safety, maintenance, personnel, training, wages, etc. there will be disastrous results. The greed based living and exploitation of resources both human and natural, without understanding the delicate interconnectedness of all living things, is the bane of civilization as we have come to know it. It is destroying everything, systematically, bit by bit. We must ask ourselves and each...(continue reading »)


posted february 9, 2010

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