Safer skies

AIRPORTS across the United States positively undulate at this time of year. Travelers stream in and out as a veritable shuttle of airplanes climbs and lands. Americans once again are showing their confidence in the overall safety of their nation's airlines.

It is confidence generally well-placed. Yet there should be no complacency about airplane safety, and it is appropriate that a quiet concern now exists in Congress as to whether the federal government is doing as much as possible to determine whether all airlines are complying fully with safety requirements.

Because of two recent groundings and a crash with fatalities, commuter airline practices now are getting the closest examination. But the more important issue may be whether the Federal Aviation Administration now has a large enough staff and the proper procedures to dissuade air carriers of every size from cutting corners in safety and record-keeping in an effort to save money. A few sometimes are so tempted, industry specialists say.

This is an issue that Congress may decide to probe in the coming year, depending on the assessment it makes of current FAA effectiveness.

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