The FAA disputes American's claims, but The New York Times reports that "John Goglia, a maintenance expert and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that the rules had, in fact, changed. ... The differences in American's work, he said, were so small that 'those airplanes could have flown for the rest of their careers and those wires would not have been a problem.'"
What about alarmist claims that the FAA has been lax in enforcing its own procedures? If the claims are true, then where are the bodies? The best evidence that FAA enforcement is unnecessary is to assume it's been lax -- and then to note that airline travel, though busier than ever, has never been safer.
We need to rethink the premise that government inspections keep us safe.
Clifford Winston and Robert W. Crandall of the Brookings Institution write: "[T]he fundamental problem with most regulation is that the regulatory agency does not have sufficient information, flexibility and immunity from political pressure to regulate firms' behavior effectively. Fortunately, the market, and in some cases the liability system, provide sufficient incentives for firms to behave in a socially beneficial manner."
To see who really regulates air safety, do a thought experiment suggested by George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux, who blogs at Cafe Hayek:
"Suppose that all government regulation of airlines were abolished today. Does ... Congressman [Oberstar] suppose that airline executives would tomorrow fire all inspectors and maintenance crews, indifferent to the prospect of losing multimillion-dollar assets in fiery crashes? Does he not see that airlines with poor safety records would have difficulty attracting customers? Is he unaware that airlines' insurers have ample incentives to work closely with airlines at keeping air-travel safety at optimal levels? In short, is Mr. Oberstar really so dimwitted to think that airlines will be safe only if they are regulated by government?"
Yes, I think he is.
And sadly, most of his colleagues, and mine, agree with him.