Schumer says increasing ramp inspections will reduce crashes
Over the past three years, the senior Senator from New York has voiced a number of strong opinions about what the FAA should and should not do. Mr. Schumer’s ex cathedra views have included airports, drones, lasers, aircraft seat width and regulatory standards. Most recently, on the occasion of eight recent general aviation accidents on Long Island, he has now proclaimed that the answer is for the FAA to increase “ramp inspections” (an aviation term of art defined as “as surveillance of an airman, operator, air agency, or aircraft…”).
The Long Island Press reported the Senator’s instructions as follows:
“The senator said FAA ramp inspections, which determine if airports are in compliance with federal regulations and safe operating practices, have dropped 70 percent at New York airports in the past decade. He urged the FAA to reverse that trend during a news conference Monday at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, the site of the eighth small plane crash on LI so far this year, the most since 2012. Schumer noted that the crashes and inspections aren’t directly linked.
‘We’re getting closer and closer to a record setting year for crashes,’ Schumer said. ‘The only thing that should be falling out of the skies of Long Island is rain.’”
Here are summaries of a few of the crashes which caught the Senator’s attention:
- Long Island Plane Crash Kills 3—the plane departed from South Carolina on its way to Plainville, Conn., outside of Hartford. The “ramp checks” on LI would not have prevented this problem. The plane broke up in flight.
- Bayport plane crash leaves 2 men injured, Suffolk police say—this aircraft was en route to upstate Orange County after taking off from the nearby Bayport Aerodrome.
- 3 rescued after small aircraft crashes along Long Island shoreline; 1 passenger still missing—the plane crashed in the water.
It is hard to see any pattern which indicates that the aviation on the island is any better or worse than other geographical areas. Further, Newsday published an article entitled: General aviation accidents nationwide and here is its graphic:
The hypothesis of Senator Schumer’s directive is flawed. Statistical analysis would not find that a series of random accidents, which occurred in a finite geographical area, correlates with a conclusion that there is any reason to believe that there problem(s) exists with the pilots, planes or airports on the Island. For example, one of the accidents just flew over LI on the way to another destination. While the probable causes have not been found, superficial analysis suggests that a mechanical problem was involved in one case and pilot error in the other.
AOPA did more than what the Senator’s remedy could accomplish and responded more quickly. AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President George Perry(above) offered for GA pilots a Safe Skies, Good Neighbors town hall June 3 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York. He reminded that community of the need for their individual commitment to safety—assuring that their planes are in airworthy condition, preflighting the aircraft, researching and planning for weather, staying alert throughout the flight and bringing the best of skills when in the cockpit. That last reminder really calls for AOPA members to refresh their pilot techniques through training year round. Mr. Perry’s speech did a lot more good than the Senator’s press conference. The audience clearly responded to this basic advice.
Senators want to be reelected and issuing profound statements which will impress his/her constituents is an effective strategy. Calling for more “ramp inspections” may impress some with the aviation jargon, but better staff work might have better served him. Maybe he could have been invited to the AOPA Safe Skies, Good Neighbors.