WASHINGTON (AP) -- The drive to improve airline security is delaying other efforts to make flying safer.
Federal officials and the airline industry are focusing on preventing a repeat of last month's terrorist attacks. That has pushed aside work to prevent airplanes from entering the wrong runway, reduce the risk of a fuel tank exploding and give pilots more rest.
"Everybody is just so overwhelmed by the problems of the moment, you just ignore everything else," said Darryl Jenkins, director of George Washington University's Aviation Institute.
Nevertheless, those other safety issues are not going away. Earlier this month, 118 people were killed in Milan, Italy, after an SAS airliner collided with a business jet that had mistakenly entered the runway as the larger plane was taking off.
In the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board has pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to prevent planes, vehicles and individuals from entering runways by mistake.
A second priority for the safety board is reducing the risk of fire in airplane fuel tanks. Federal investigators have blamed the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 on a fuel tank fire.
An FAA advisory committee looking at rules to prevent fuel tank gases from igniting postponed its planned November meeting until January because agency officials were too busy with airline security issues.
Pilots worry about delays in new FAA rules restricting how much time they can work. Current rules allow pilots to work 16 hours a day, eight of them actually flying a plane. Delays can extend pilots' workdays beyond the maximum so they can complete their last flight.
"There's no question we lost some momentum on the question of fatigue and moving the FAA toward updated rules," said Capt. Rich Rubin of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, which represents 28,000 pilots.
"Right now, it's appropriate for the FAA and all the airlines to be concentrating on the immediate threat of security."
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