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Word Count: 2,245
1989 has been a year in which both aviation experts and spokesmen For the flying public have expressed intensified concern over what they perceive to be a substantial deterioration in the safety of Americas passenger airline operations In the first nine months of 1989 alone there have been ten fatal air crashes involving large transport-category planes owned by US based carriers Ott p28 This compares disfavorably to the first nine of months of 1988 when but two such accidents took place and in fact it is the highest number of death-causing accidents for the American commercial aviation industry during the 1980s Fotos p31 This spate of airborne tragedies has prompted interested parties to ask a series of disturbing questions Is it now safe to fly on American owned airlines and related to this is it now riskier to board these planes than it was before industry deregulation took place in 1978 What if any specific factors have contributed to the perceived decline in the industrys safety standards Finally what if anything can be done to enhance the airworthiness of US passenger planes and to improve the safety performance of the crews who man them In this paper all three of these questions will be addressed and without advancing too far ahead we discover that there simply are no definitive answers to any of them As serious accidents among Americas air carriers have mounted in 1989 a conventional wisdom has supplied a plausible account of the historical roots of the present safety problem In 1978 the Federal government de-regulated the US airline industry Faced with an increasingly competitive environment individual carriers tried to hold down fares by making cost-related cuts in policies and procedures related to safety Many have argued that increased competition may lead airlines to skimp on investments in safetyBornstein and Zimmerman p913 by for example allowing aging planes to take to the skies following routine inspections rather than replacing them with new craft
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