Executives from major airlines and aircraft manufacturing firms asked for wide-ranging reductions in certification and safety regulations during a closed-door meeting two months ago with Federal Aviation Administration chief Lynn Helms, a transcript of the meeting shows.
In general, the executives argued that the regulations do not improve safety levels but raise costs significantly.
Helms said he wanted to "stop the ever-expanding regulation. In fact, we need to accelerate the effort of deregulation," he said, according to the transcript. He also stressed that safety is the FAA's prime concern but said attention also should be given to the economic implications of FAA decisions.
The meeting was held on June 30 in the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington. Helms assured participants that efforts would be made to keep the proceedings confidential. The Aviation Consumer Action Project, part of the Ralph Nader organization, obtained a transcript through the Freedom of Information Act and released it to the press.
E.H. Boullioun, president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Co., the nation's largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft, called for simplification of the lengthy process by which aircraft are certified as airworthy.
"More and more regulations have been imposed," he said. "This increases our costs and the FAA workload. Few of these regulations have contributed to significant safety improvements. Most would not survive a cost-benefit assessment."
Boullioun suggested that the FAA should delegate more of the certification responsibility to the industry. Three new models of Boeing aircraft, the 737-300, the 757 and the 767, are undergoing certification.
Sanford McDonnell, chairman of McDonnell-Douglas Corp., complained of tests the FAA required his firm to conduct on the DC10's engine pylon design following the 1979 crash in Chicago which killed 273 people.
The tests were too extensive and costly, he told the group. "In my opinion . . . it didn't add a thing to the conclusion."
Edward Acker, then chairman of Air Florida and now head of Pan American World Airways, suggested it would be more efficient to let airlines use their own personnel to test their pilots' proficiency on new types of aircraft. Currently FAA examiners conduct those tests.
Acker also said some safety regulations are outdated. He cited requirements for extra fuel reserves on international flights. He said that weather forecasting and upper-wind analysis have improved markedly since the regulations were written and, as a result, "Carriers are routinely carrying extra fuel which is never called upon, thereby incurring substantial expense."
Some safety rules give foreign carriers a competitive edge, Acker argued. The FAA requires that flights operating 100 nautical miles from land carry life rafts. But international regulations require them only on flights 400 miles from land, Acker said.