The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to a wide lack of enthusiasm, has scrubbed an attempt to simplify vastly its airline safety regulations.
The proposal, which the FAA called regulation by objective (RBO), would have replaced extensive "how-to" rules for operation and maintenance of airlines. Under RBO, the FAA simply would state safety objectives for each airline and let the firm figure out how to meet them.
The formal withdrawal of RBO will be published in the Federal Register next week. In announcing the action, the FAA said it has received many comments but that "perhaps most importantly, the language in a number of comments indicates that the complexity of the proposal has caused widespread confusion and misunderstanding among various segments of the public."
Organizations as varied as the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Regional Airline Association, which represents smaller commuter airlines, have opposed the plan. The ALPA and other airline unions were concerned that, among other things, RBO might mean airlines could operate with fewer people.
The Air Transport Association of America, which represents the big airlines, originally was responsive to the RBO idea but never formally took a position.
At a recent ATA board meeting, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael J. Fenello was asked about the prospects for RBO. Fenello cited several recent highly publicized airline incidents and said that they had combined to "set up quite a headwind" for RBO.
Those incidents include a Frontier Airlines plane landing without extending its gear, a Republic Airlines flight losing power in both engines because the fuel supply line was not switched to a full tank, another Republic flight making an emergency landing because its fuel tanks almost ran dry and the Eastern Airlines incident in which all three engines ran out of oil because of a maintenance error. That flight limped back to Miami to make a safe emergency landing.
Those incidents have raised a number of questions not only about airline operations but also about the adequacy of the FAA's safety oversight.
The FAA said in its formal withdrawal notice that it will continue to seek revisions in the rules that apply to airline and commuter airline operations in hopes of producing "a responsive system yielding greater assurances of safety."