Two good steps

Two developments which involve US commerical airplanes deserve support. One is the decision by Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole to hire 166 new airplane safety inspectors to add to today's 508, thus restoring the number of positions previously trimmed by the Reagan administration for budgetary reasons. The Dole decision follows deiscovery for maintenance problems which had caused the FAA to ground temporarily three small airlines for safety reasons.

It is to the Reagan administation's credit that once it realized the number of federal inspectors was inadequate to the task, it reversed itself and agreed to increase the staffing to former levels, One of the tasks assigned to inspectors is to make spot-checks of maintenance of commercial aircraft.

The other development involves smoking. Several proposals now being considered by the Civil Aeronautics Board would, if finally enacted, ban smoking on an estimated 90 percent of all fights within the United States. This week the CAB has been taking testimony on the contested issue: The CAB previously gave tentative approval to the proposals and plans a final ruling in the next six weeks.

Two of the plans would forbid smoking on smaller planes; others would ban it on short flights.

Most Americans do not smoke. All airlines now must provide separate seating for them, and few smaller lines have banned smoking altogether.

Proponents of the stiffer regulations point out that smoke nonetheless can drift from smoking to nonsmoking sections, and that this is offensive to nonsmokers. Additionally, smoking presents a fire hazard: despite regulations some passengers persist in smoking in restrooms and carelessly disposing of their smoking materials.

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