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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

Another tragedy hits beleaguered airline industry

Just when you thought it was safe to fly again, just when consumer confidence
in air travel was on the rise, we have yet another disaster to further damage
our already fragile psyche. The crash of American Airlines flight 587 in New
York last week was a tragedy for its victims, and to a lesser extent a
tragedy for all Americans. September 11, has cast an unfortunate shadow over
the airline industry, a shadow that may take decades to exercise from our
subconscious. Last weeks crash appears to be a terrible accident rather than
what many had assumed was an act of terrorism. Hopefully, this tragedy
doesn’t get lost in all the talk of 9/11. This disaster should be treated as
the singular catastrophe it truly is and not be lumped together with
terrorism. Those who lost their lives in this crash should be afforded the
same amount of dignity, respect, sympathy and compassion as victims of the
World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and the plane that crashed in the
Pennsylvania countryside.

But there’s another reason for treating this as a singular horrible accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation is moving rapidly, as
it should with investigators focusing on mechanical or engine problems. If
it’s proven that mechanical failure or some other engine problem contributed
to this tragedy, the fix deserves the same attention from those of us in the
media, as the current debate over airline safety. Nothing could be more
tragic than a serious engine problem falling under the radar because we’re so
focused on 9/11. An already shaky consumer confidence will further
deteriorate by reports of negligence on the part of the airlines and the
federal government. Yet, if it comes to that, I encourage you to report the
facts and force the change necessary to make us all feel safe to fly.

Investigators from the NTSB are taking a serious look at the CF6 series
engines manufactured by General Electric as the likely cause of the crash.
Although the official report probably won’t be seen anytime soon, the mere
fact that they are spending so much time focused on the engine is a pretty
good indication that it’s at least part of the problem. The CF6 engines have
proven reliable over time. In fact, Air Force One has the same CF6 engine as
those mounted on AA 587. But several incidents over the past 18 months have
caught the eye of the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting the
government to publish a safety notice stating there was a need for mandatory
inspections of the CF6-80C2 engine. The October 5, 2001, order came after
the FAA told the airlines to begin inspection of these engines for potential
cracks in the rotor disks. In September 2000, part of a GE CF6 series engine
was ejected, penetrating the left wing of a U.S. Airways flight undergoing
maintenance on the ground in Philadelphia. A year later a Monarch Airlines
passenger jet with the CF6 engine was forced to make an emergency landing in
Portugal. According to the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch, a
rotor snapped, puncturing the engine’s housing leaving a 3-inch hole and
causing minor damage to the wing.

NTSB investigators are also looking into the possibility that wake turbulence
from a Japan Airlines flight that had taken off less than two minutes before
flight 587 could have caused the crash. Investigators believe a structural
weakness in the tail fins of the Airbus A300 jet was made worse by the
turbulence from the Japan Airlines flight. That turbulence caused the tail
to separate from the aircraft and plunged into a Queens neighborhood. The
FAA is on scene in New York, working side-by-side with the NTSB. If it’s
determined that a weakened tail fins was the problem, they stand ready to
mandate corrective actions immediately.

In the past, the airline industry and those responsible for safety have taken
the cheapest route to repair or replace defective parts. We must not stand
for this and neither should the airlines, especially now. It would be great
if the airlines could report they took measures to repair problems that were
more stringent than those required by the feds. It would certainly go a long
way towards building consumer confidence, not to mention the good PR that
could be derived from such a report. The airlines have all these formulas
comparing cost to risk. This is one time where life should take the pilot’s