UPRIGHT AND LOCKED

Aviation Security

You'd figure the Federal Aviation Adminstration would be adding inspectors left and right, given the rapid expansion of discount carriers, the bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy of numerous airlines, and attempts to save money by outsourcing maintenance.

Wrong. The agency's Flight Standards Office is so strapped that it cannot fill positions lost through attrition. The office lost 138 workers, including 94 inspectors, so far this year. It anticipates losing 257 workers by the end of the year, said FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette, who added, "Our first priority is the safety of the public, and safety-critical positions will be filled."

But how is unclear if President Bush's budget proposal prevails. Despite the recent inspector general report warning that the FAA was failing to effectively oversee new safety risks, the administration would cut the FAA's 2006 budget by $79 million.

"Aviation security is too important to be done on the cheap," complained Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. "The president's budget tells the FAA to do more with less, even as we see the skies getting more and more crowded."

An appropriations subcommittee last week voted to restore enough funding in the budget -- $8 million -- to keep the number of inspectors at current levels. The budget proposal moves to the full committee this week.

road tips

New & Improved!

If your summer travels are taking you to Manhattan, San Francisco or Cooperstown, N.Y., consider checking out:

* The Independent Film Channel Center in Greenwich Village (323 Avenue of the Americas). On Thursday, the IFC, a digital cable network, opened its center for independent film fans and makers in the historic, newly restored Waverly Theater. The center features three public state-of-the-art theaters for viewing independent, foreign and documentary features, and includes a public restaurant and an editing facility for filmmakers. Details: www.ifccenter.com.

* The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has nearly completed a three-year, $20 million renovation. Although the official dedication is set for July 29, many new exhibits are already open. Details: 888-875- 2969, www.cooperstowngetaway.org.

* In San Francisco, Stern Grove -- a 33-acre park with meadows, a lake and hiking trails -- opened its concert festival season today in a remodeled amphitheater designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Free Sunday concerts at 2 p.m through Aug. 21 include the highbrow (such as the San Francisco Opera) and popular groups (Ladysmith Black Mambazo). Details: www.sterngrove.org.

TRAVEL TICKER

Find last-minute packages at www.expedia.com/lastminute, a newly streamlined site that allows you to specify a departure city and find available bargains. Similar sites include www.site59.com, www.lastminutetravel.com and www.11thhourvacations.com . . . Wearing knee-high, graduated-compressed stockings significantly reduced the incidence of deep vein thrombosis among test subjects in a two-year study published in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing. DVT, also known as "economy-class syndrome," was 12 times more likely to affect passengers without the stockings, even though all fliers followed routine recommendations: exercise frequently during long flights, drink plenty of water, avoid salty foods and get bulky baggage out of the way.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Viva Tel Aviv

Fly business class from New York to Tel Aviv for $2,256 round trip. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

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