Flight Safety Stretched: Across U.S., Inspectors Miss Reviews at Many Carriers

On a weekday just before the strike at Metro Airport, the McNamara Terminal's main concourse buzzed with thousands of Northwest Airlines travelers whisking through 78 gates onto more than 350 flights. Only one thing was missing: the watchful eye of a...

Pence said his concern was addressed two or three days later, when the inspector, Stanley Godfrey, returned.

Pence and other striking mechanics said they saw Godfrey at the Northwest terminal about every seven to 10 days.

Godfrey did not return Free Press calls.

Too much work

Colleagues, who asked not to be identified because they are not supposed to speak to the news media, described Godfrey as a hardworking inspector trying to juggle multiple assignments while following agency procedures.

"It's too much work for one guy," said a Detroit-based inspector who works with Godfrey.

FAA inspectors' duties range from maintenance to flight instruments, to pilots and cabin crews. In response to the strike, the agency increased the number of inspectors assigned nationally to Northwest from 46 to 80. FAA officials refused to detail their maintenance training, saying only that they are trained in all aspects of airline safety.

Some travelers, spooked by recent fatal crashes in Greece and Venezuela and the idea of replacement workers fixing airplanes, say safety concerns give them pause.

As she prepared Thursday afternoon to put her 15-year-old niece on a flight from Detroit to Greece, Mary Kalas of Saline said she worried about who was watching the replacement mechanics.

"I don't think they should stretch" FAA inspectors thin "on the airlines," Kalas said. "I think they should stretch someplace else."

Others were less nervous.

"They're not going to put a plane up if it's not safe," said Dave Kowachek, who landed at Detroit Metro from Harrisburg, Pa., on Thursday morning. Kowachek, 32, said he regularly flies Northwest as a U.S. Army engineer.

"I assume the regular government oversight is adequate," he said. "I assume they're watching over this."

Detroit Free Press

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