Frequently Asked Questions

The Alleged FAA Safety Factor: Does it Work?

From: Terry 

Call me naive but if we truly rely on the individual airlines to make their own aircraft truly safe, and the FAA was not inspecting as they should be, then wouldn't we have more accidents? Would not the airlines cut even more corners with safety if the FAA were not around to do inspections? 

Answer by EditorASC:

The self-interest of both consumers and vendors would do the "watching over." That is difficult for some to fathom, since they have grown up in an era where there is a govt. agency to watch almost everything we do. The apparent difference in my view and the more common view is that "it has always been done that way," is seen as a valid argument for continuing to do it that way.

I come from the school that asks, "does the evidence support the hypothesis?"

John Nance, Ralph Nader and Capt. Tom all belong to the "facts and stats don't matter," school. They argue that if a theory seems "logical" then we should be bound by it forever, regardless of the facts. I am so thankful that Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk and many others that have invented all those things that have made life so much more bearable, didn't think like that.

In free markets, consumers naturally tend to gravitate towards those products and firms that provide the best product over the long term. Firms that produce products which harm the consumer don't last very long. That is just the opposite of what happens when the product is produced by a govt. monopoly. In those cases, the worse the product gets, the more money and power that govt. "firm" is given so it can continue to get worse and worse.......  That is why the "public" schools in the inner cities are so terrible.

It is no accident (yes a pun) that the worst airline accident history in the world belonged to Aeroflot, the Soviet Airline. It also is no accident that the best records on airline safety have been found in the areas of the world that had privately operated airlines. Do you remember the main response in Japan, following the crash of the JAL 747 in 1985, was to take the airline private?

A basic fact of human economic history is that when consumers have choice, the products that survive in the free market place, continually improve. When the govt. produces products with monopoly powers, which force consumers to purchase only there, the product always gets worse.

This is not an argument for utopia and perfection in free markets. But it is an argument that, historically, freedom of choice in the marketplace has always produced the best products and the highest standard of living for all in a society where regulation and taxes are the lowest.

The public's belief that govt. bureaucracy ensures the airlines will act safely, comes from books like Safety Last: The Dangers of Commercial Aviation: An Indictment by an Airline Pilot, by Captain Brian Power-Waters XIII, Collision Course: The Truth About Airline Safety, by Ralph Nader, and Blind Trust: How Deregulation Has Jeopardized Airline Safety and What You Can Do About it, by John Nance.

Such books are, in my opinion, political axe grinders. In the case of the Waters book, it was written well before the 1978 Deregulation Act. The theme of that book is that not nearly enough was being spent on airline safety. One complaint after another about how airline managements were stingy with safety dollars. But then along came that horrible (in the view of pilot union officials) Deregulation Act of 1978, and the argument was suddenly reversed. They began to argue that the airlines would not spend nearly as much on safety as they had in the good old days before Deregulation. In my view, both that book and the arguments, before and after Deregulation, were hysterical and irrational and motivated strictly by political considerations (extolling the "union mentality").

The Nader book is even worse. He hates capitalism to start with. He wants the govt. to run every aspect of our lives even though it does a terrible job in nearly every industry that it gets involved in (Amtrak, Post Office, inner city schools, etc.). Nader resorts to the same unethical methodology of argument that he has used since Unsafe At Any Speed. He engages in the use of anecdotal evidence, half truths, the blip trick and even outright lies. He deliberately distorts the facts so that he and his Trial Lawyers lobby can get more laws thru Congress that will make that group even richer.

The truth is that the airlines have been installing better safety equipment and devising better training for many years, before and after Deregulation. There isn't a shred of evidence to support the doom and gloom crowd. They all (including John Nance, ABC's resident expert) are trying to whip up public hysteria to aid them in their grinding of political axes. Nance's book, Blind Trust, is a travesty and I explain why at:

Pilots get windshear training every year, as part of their recurrent and transition training programs. We also have on-board windshear alert systems (as part of the GPWS warning system) in the cockpit that warn the pilot before it is too late to get out of there. Our modern simulators are extremely sophisticated and can set up virtually any kind of windshear scenario for pilots to fly thru, so they can learn, not only how to first recognize an oncoming windshear, but also the best way to fly out of it to safety. That is why one 747-400 simulator costs more than an entire 707, when they were first acquired by the airlines.  The FAA did not mandate any of those advances in technological safety until they were invented, developed and made available to the public by investors who hoped to profit from their risk investment.  The free-market has always led the way, govt. bureaucracies only follow.  I have more to say on this at:

Again, safety has been greatly enhanced by the advance of technology and also by the capitalist profit system that enables major airlines to keep investing in such advances to safety. Historically, the airlines in the world with the worst safety records have tended to be those in socialist countries where "profit" was viewed as a form of immoral greed.

"Government isn't the solution; it is the problem."


August, 2005

Robert J. Boser    

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The Editor of this Web Page, now retired, was an airline pilot for 33 years and holds 6 specific Captain's type-ratings on Boeing Jet Airliners.


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