Congressional report: money, not safety, is overriding airline concern

While airline officials are concerned about safety, overriding financial considerations often drive their decisions, says a congressional study released yesterday. The report also portrays the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a money-strapped and personnel-short agency ``scrambling vainly to catch up'' to a rapidly changing industry where safety sometimes is compromised.

The 183-page report by Congress's nonpartisan Office of Technology Assessment suggests that Congress consider organizational changes and increased funding for the FAA so the agency can monitor the airline industry more aggressively.

The study characterizes the United States aviation industry as the world's safest, but also fraught with turmoil and intense economic competition requiring strong regulation.

Legislation is under consideration in Congress to separate the FAA from the Transportation Department. A presidential commission recently called for the creation of an FAA ``safety czar'' to ensure that airlines comply with federal air regulations.

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