Collision Course Summary

Collision Course

In this quite sensational expose, Ralph Nader and Wesley Smith point out some of the imminent dangers they see in an air transportation system that, worldwide, transports over half a billion passengers every year, a number that is increasing steadily. They point to cost-cutting at the expense of safety and to pressures on air controllers to consider the economic implications of the decisions— sometimes life-death decisions—they make.

The authors portray the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a bureaucracy that becomes convinced of the need for change only when dramatic loss of life occurs. Airline crashes undeniably have an immediate effect on the tightening of FAA regulations. To suggest, however, that the FAA is engaging in a crapshoot with safety is to overlook the improving statistics regarding deaths per million miles traveled. In 1992, for example, the airlines suffered thirty-three deaths attributable to crashes, the lowest number since 1986—and this with more passenger miles flown.

This book is aimed unashamedly at getting readers to become members of citizens’ advocacy groups that focus on air safety. The authors unashamedly bid for their membership in the later pages of the book and give details for joining. Often Nader and Smith seem to be pushing for reforms that are already being enacted in an orderly fashion. They urge immediate action; the FAA and other governing bodies prefer an orderly transition.

The appendix that lists National Transportation Safety Board statistics for air accidents from 1967 to 1992 seems to say more on behalf of the regulators and the airlines than it does on behalf of Nader and Smith.