Safety on the fly

This hasn’t been a good week or so for people to feel entirely safe, wrapped in the loving arms of the nation’s airlines.

Last week, American Airlines canceled about 300 flights to check some jets for faulty wiring. Earlier this month a House subcommittee found that Southwest Airlines and FAA inspectors falsified safety reports, resulting in its planes going more than two years without the required safety checks.

Sometimes the anecdotal evidence of trouble is even more upsetting. Take Tom Shoop, who writes the blog FedBlog. Last night he spent time at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport watching repair crews for an unnamed airline fix a hole in the wing with duct tape.

The hole had been covered up by what I swear appeared to be duct tape until moments earlier, when the tape had been ripped off during the de-icing process. We taxied back to the gate and, to my amazement, a couple of mechanics came out, applied more tape (which actually seemed to involve some kind of heat-activated adhesive) and pronounced the plane ready to fly — which it then did, all the way to Washington.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was on the same plane.

At a time when the airlines are going bankrupt, the advanced age of the nation’s aircraft fleet is troubling… unless you’re in the duct tape business.