WASHINGTON -- Major airlines are working to improve their safety management programs and all meet basic federal regulations, says a government report that looks at the industry in general but contains few details about individual carriers.
The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed safety management at the largest airlines this summer and released a summary of its findings Friday.
Nick Lacey, director of the FAA's Flight Standards Service, said detailed reports on individual airlines won't be available until early next year.
Overall, Lacey said, the basic safety programs in use are effective and airlines generally follow their written plans.
But, he added, "the FAA found that airlines could do a better job of documenting procedures for many of their programs."
Some airlines could do a better job of meeting safety audit due dates.
Where problems were found the airlines are acting to make improvements, he said.
It was lack of maintenance documentation at Alaska Airlines that led the FAA to undertake the study of the major carriers.
After an Alaska Airlines crash last Jan. 31, killing 88 people, the FAA launched a close study of that airline's maintenance procedures and subsequently required major improvements. The cause of that crash has not yet been determined officially, but problems with a tail control system are suspected.
After completing the Alaska Airlines review, the agency decided to review safety maintenance management at the rest of the nation's 10 largest carriers.
The new report details what Lacey called "best practices," citing effort in several areas in which airlines did well and set an example for the remainder of the industry. It does not cite specific problem areas for individual airlines, however.
Pressed by reporters, Lacey provided a quick airline rundown from memory, however. He said:
American: Has a strong safety monitoring program, don't recall anything significant that needed improvement.
America West: Internal evaluation program to assure it is meeting government rules is among the best, but it still needs to work on monitoring its reliability and maintenance programs.
Continental: Has some best practices, didn't need any major makeovers.
Delta: Has a strong safety program, no major areas needing improvement.
Northwest: Reliability maintenance programs have some advanced features, internal evaluation program for compliance to government rules "has a long way to go."
Southwest: Solid in all areas.
TWA: No dazzling programs, are working on the reliability and maintenance programs.
United: Safety program has some outstanding features, solid on reliability, maintenance.
US Airways: Safety program well managed, places more reliance on the FAA for monitoring compliance with government rules than he would have expected.
On the net:
FAA site: http://www.faa.gov
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