Forced Landing For The Faa's Boss?

The nation's chief airline cop may not survive the May 11 ValuJet crash. Federal Aviation Administrator David Hinson is under fire from consumer advocates, Congress, and from within the FAA for not taking a tougher stance to ensure safe skies.

Hinson is an ex-CEO of the now-defunct Midway Airlines and a former McDonnell Douglas vice-president. He is also an advocate of the FAA's dual mission to promote air travel and monitor aviation safety--a mission now being questioned. He says he doesn't plan to stay long: "I only promised to stay one [Presidential] term." But growing concerns about aviation safety could force him out sooner. Says Gordon Johnson, president of the union that represents FAA inspectors, "He has to choose between two masters: The public wants safety. Airlines want profits."

Confidence in Hinson fell further when he did not share with Congress a May 2 FAA report showing the accident rate of low-cost airlines--except Southwest--is four times that of the major carriers. Now his reticence may come back to haunt him.

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