Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

I Don't Want to Fly the Uninspected Skies

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
It's been a rough week for the airline industry. And an anxiety-provoking one for all those who fly.

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration slapped American Eagle (owned by the parent of American Airlines) with a $2.9 million penalty for allegedly not maintaining landing gear doors on four regional jets. More than 1,100 flights were involved.

A day later, the Department of Transportation jumped in with its own report. The Chicago Tribune wrote that "Federal inspectors failed to detect a troubling decline in the maintenance and upkeep of American Airlines aircraft in recent years." The newspaper said the situation "is raising questions about the effectiveness of an inspection system that, critics contend, has largely left airlines to police themselves."

I have a simple proposal for making the skies safer, and it doesn't involve more regulatory slaps on the wrist after offenses have been committed.

The Obama administration should mandate that the FAA bring a new level of transparency and openness to its regulatory apparatus. This would fulfill a vision of government that the president championed when he was on the campaign trail. It would bring that same consumer-first approach to the skies, and would bring the withering light of public scrutiny to bear on the current closed, self-regulating environment.

Here's how airline safety could be brought out of the shadows and onto the public runway of visibility. Everyone should be able to log onto the FAA site -- and the site of every airline for that matter -- and have access to detailed information about each aircraft by flight number. So if I'm flying from New York to Seattle on American Airlines Flight 21, for example, I could drill down to:

– The entire maintenance history of the aircraft – miles flown, when it was last inspected by the airline, what was found, when the repairs were made.
– The name of the last FAA inspector to fine-tooth comb the aircraft.
– The aircraft's maintenance schedule and how it compares to FAA mandates.
– Photos of the maintained areas, before and after.
– The name of the pilot and co-pilot, their flying record (including near misses, if any), and the number of hours they've flown that week.

This kind of disclosure would no doubt send the airline industry -- and the unions -- into a tizzy. But why shouldn't travelers be entitled to know this? After all, when I step into any elevator there's a little panel on the wall that tells me who last inspected the little flying box -- and that inspector has to sign his or her name. And the last time I looked, elevators weren't lifting to 5,000 feet and didn't come with flotation devices.

Because access to this information would allow consumers to make more informed decisions, it would create a real free market and produce all sorts of beneficial results. Right now, because fliers have no visibility into the maintenance biography, airlines that invest the absolute minimum in maintenance are at no disadvantage to those that invest more. There is no reward for scrupulousness; the current opaque system encourages less investment.

With my system, airlines could promote their investment in maintenance and fewer pilot hours -- and consumers could choose to pay higher prices for higher standards. It would create positive competition around whose maintenance is better and whose pilots fly less -- a good thing for public safety and also, ironically, for the airlines' own economic health.

I'm confident that over the next decade this will happen. Putting important inspection information online will become common practice by federal, state and local agencies.

It was in 1913 when Louis Brandeis, who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice three years later, famously wrote, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." If writing today, his hygienic metaphor might read, "Digital sunlight is the best disinfectant."
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly


Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>