Here's a good one: lately we've all been upset about air travel mishaps including close calls on landings; air traffic controllers asleep at the switch; and of course that alarming five-foot hole in the fuselage of a Southwest 737, calling into question the safety of many commercial aircraft. So it's a good time to consider the fact, as spotlighted by an op-ed today in the New York Times by consumer travel expert and advocate Bill McGee (for whom -- full disclosure -- I used to write at Consumer Reports Travel Letter), that a recent bill passed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives
"would cut $4 billion from the Federal Aviation Administration’s $37 billion budget. Representative John L. Mica, a Florida Republican who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says the bill would streamline F.A.A. programs and promised the bill would 'not negatively impact aviation safety.'
Such streamlining would probably mean reduction of F.A.A. staff, including safety inspectors. As it is, the agency has been short-staffed for years. According to the Government Accountability Office, 1,100 inspectors oversaw 81 airlines, 5,200 repair stations, and 625,000 pilots in 2006. A $4 billion cut will necessarily reduce the work force further. And it’s hard to imagine this will not diminish safety."
Do you agree? Are politicians playing budget politics with our air safety, or is this being blown out of proportion? Would you feel safe flying if these budget cuts go through?