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News & Press: Safety

RAA Senior Vice President Scott Foose Chronicles Regional Airline Safety at MITRE Campus 

Friday, March 4, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Admin

Click here to see the Scott Foose Presentation

(Source:  MITRE- Online News)
How regional airlines build safer skies    2/23/11 12:00 AM

MITRE Aviation Safety Town Hall speaker Scott Foose -- flanked by CAASD Aviation Safety Town Hall Series coordinators Wally Feerrar (left) and Hassan Shahidi – noted that regional airlines provide the only scheduled service to 74 percent of the communities in North America with commercial service.

(Photo by Alan Zimberg)
Regional airlines are carrying a growing number of America’s air passengers each year – and, as Scott Foose told a MITRE Aviation Safety Town Hall Series audience, they are also putting into place many of the steps envisioned for making it safer to fly.

Foose, senior vice president of operations and safety of the Washington, D.C.-based Regional Airline Association, appeared at MITRE’s McLean campus last week to chronicle the history of regional airlines from airline deregulation to the complex network it has developed today that enables passengers to fly anywhere in the world.    

“Regional airlines have grown dramatically over the last 30 years,” said Foose. “Today they operate more than 50 percent of the nation’s commercial airline schedule and many are fully involved in aviation safety programs.”

Deregulation gave way to progress

Spurred by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, major airlines focused on longer flights with cabins filled with hundreds of passengers and gave local flights (less than 400 miles) to regional airlines. However, Foose said that regional airlines at that time were hardly prepared to take on the flood of new business, no matter how welcomed. Up until then, many had been flying passengers an average of 129 miles, using airframes with an average seating capacity of 16.

But, as Foose noted, “The industry responded quickly and grew exponentially.” Regional Airline Association statistics show that today’s passengers travel an average of 457 miles, more than three times as far as they did some 30 years ago. The average seating capacity of the regional fleet was 55 seats in 2009, and it is forecasted to grow to 56 in 2011 and 65 seats in 2030.

Strong and growing stronger

Regional airlines play a powerful role in the U.S. commercial air transportation system. They provide the only scheduled service to 74 percent of the communities in North America (the United States, Canada, and Mexico) with commercial service. But to achieve—and maintain—such tremendous success in the aviation market, regional airlines have had to establish varying business relationships. For example, a single carrier can operate independently, contract with another airline, be a subsidiary of or be owned by a major airline, or fly under a code-sharing agreement.

As of 2010, the top regional airline carriers (ranked by largest customer base) were: SkyWest (including ExpressJet), American Eagle, Republic, Pinnacle, Air Canada Jazz, Mesa, US Airways Express (including PSA and Piedmont), Horizon, and Trans States (including Compass).

Safety: Still number one

When the Regional Airline Association was formed in 1975, it espoused safety as the highest priority to new members. Since then the association’s commitment to safety has only grown stronger. Today, nearly all of its 31-member airlines (about half of those operating in the United States) participate in the FAA-sanctioned and other voluntary safety programs. For example, the association reports:

100 percent ASAP (Aviation Safety Action Program) participation.

98 percent FOQA (Flight Operational Quality Assurance) participation.

93 percent ASIAS (Aviation Safety Information Analysis Sharing) participation.


Flying longer distances and seating more passengers means that regional airlines have raised the bar—several times, at least—on the size and quality of their fleet. Today, regional airlines operate 9- to 78-seat turboprops and 30- to 108-seat regional jets. “That’s a long way from the early days [when regional airlines flew] propeller-driven aircraft,” said Foose.

“The age of the regional airlines’ fleet is younger than major airlines’,” he added, in outlining another safety benefit of regional airlines. “All of our aircraft have GPS (global positioning system) and nearly all have glass cockpits.”

Human fatigue for pilots and other airline crew is a concern of regional airlines, and the association is collaborating with Washington State University to create an analytical model that can help predict safety risks associated with multi-segment flight schedules. The goals are to develop new science, respond to new rules, improve training and awareness, and enable pilots and managers to make better decisions.

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