Commentary: Shortcuts invariably lead to tragedy

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Until a commuter plane crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February, the U.S. airline industry had gone more than seven years without a major accident. If that impressive safety record lulled air travelers into a false sense of security, events unfolding this week should return them to reality. Fifty people perished in the Feb. 12 crash, 49 of them in the plane and one on the ground. The crash was preventable, and never should have happened.

Testimony at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing this week shows that neither the airline involved nor the Federal Aviation Administration was vigilant enough to carry out their most solemn responsibility: protecting passengers.

The three-day hearing concludes Thursday, but the testimony and evidence so far has uncovered a succession of mistakes and errors, all preventable and none of them excusable. The investigation raises fresh concerns about old problems, including improper training, pilot fatigue, inadequate pay and an appalling lack of discipline in the cockpit.

The lesson to take from the tragedy is an old one: Shortcuts invariably lead to tragedy.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.