Case Study: U.S. DOT Inspector General Report – What Safety Role of Major Airline for Affiliated Regional or Commuter Carrier?

Last week’s “New Rules & Decisions” referenced a report by the U.S. DOT Inspector General pertaining to code sharing and sharing of safety-related information between large airlines and their often-smaller regional affiliates with the key conclusion: 

“FAA does not have procedures to advance the Agency’s commitment to ensure the same level of safety between mainline air carriers and their code share partners. As part of the Call to Action, FAA officials stated that mainline air carriers should find specific ways to ensure that their partner carriers implement the most effective safety practices.” 

Following the 2009 Colgan crash the general question of commuter or regional airline safety in comparison with legacy or trunk airlines has been acute.

Following the release of the Inspector General Report earlier in February, Mike Rioux of the JDA Aviation Technology Solutions blog provides extensive explanation on the background of the relationship between larger major carrier and their regional affiliates.

Legal take-away:

As the JDA blog post makes clear: “There are no regulations mandating that major air carriers audit or perform safety oversight of their US code share partners – that is the FAA’s responsibility.”

Practical take-away: 

Based on my own discussions with people who are airline pilots or a member of the plaintiff’s tort bar – this question of commuter airline safety is by no means diminished 4 years after the Colgan accident.

AVIATION / “Prohibition on Personal Use of Electronic Devices on the Flight Deck”.

January 14, 2013, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

“The proposed rule would prohibit flightcrew members in operations under part 121 from using a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated. This rule, which conforms FAA regulations with recent legislation, is intended to ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck or a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential tasks.” 

AVIATION / FAA issues revised regulatory analysis to new (as of a year ago) flight crew duty and rest regulation that apply to Part 121 (passenger airline) operations, and allow application to cargo-only on a voluntary opt-in basis. Meanwhile litigation to strike down new rule continues in DC Circuit.

Who is affected? Mandatory for all Part 121 certificate holders and their flight crews. Voluntary for those cargo-only operations who “opt in” with the FAA for voluntary compliance.

(December 12, 2012, Availability Of Initial Supplemental Regulatory Impact Analysis ):

This is a release of analysis by the FAA to head off a courtroom defeat of the FAA’s rule on flight crew duty and rest requirements issued a year ago. Continue reading