NTSB Meeting on Major Airline and Regional Carrier Safety

Elly Kausner was a 24-year-old law student at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, when she and 48 other passengers perished last year aboard a Continental Connection flight that crashed near Buffalo.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting a two-day hearing, beginning Tuesday, October 26, on just what happens when a major airline, such as Continental, partners with a smaller commuter airline, such as Colgan Air in this case. It was a Colgan-operated flight that crashed when an exhausted pilot and co-pilot who were not adequately trained, failed to maneuver the plane in icy conditions.

The partnering agreement between Continental and Colgan is called “code sharing” and the implication is that the larger airline is assuring the safety of the regional airline. Smaller, regional airlines account for half of domestic flights in the U.S. and in hundreds of communities, regional airlines provide the only scheduled service.

The last six domestic plane crashes involved the smaller airlines.

Continental’s chief has told Congress that the airline cannot oversee partners such as Colgan; that responsibility belongs to the Federal aviation Administration. The remarks angered the father of Kausner, who said in an interview with ABC News that his daughter thought she was flying with Continental and would have no way of determining whether Colgan Air had a good safety record.

The FAA plans on reviewing whether it has the authority to review code sharing, although an FAA spokeswoman said all carriers are held to the same minimum safety standards. The FAA has put pressure on the major carriers to take on pilot and crew training and airplane maintenance and the results have been successful, says the agency. The airline pilots’ union spokesman is quoted in this article as say, “I think they might be talking the talk, but there is no evidence they are walking the walk.”

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