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NTSB forum looks at safety of airline partnerships

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As Jennifer Collins reported for today’s show, the National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the safety of airline partnerships.

The NTSB is holding a forum to probe the safety implications of “code-sharing” agreements between airlines. A code-share is a marketing arrangement whereby one airline places its designator code on a flight that is actually operated by another airline, then sells and issues tickets for that flight.

Recent investigations by the NTSB show that a handful of accident flights operated under code-sharing agreements.

In Feburary 2009, a Colgan Air flight that operated as Continental Connection crashed in a residential area near Buffalo, N.Y. All passengers and crew members aboard were killed, as well as one person on the ground. Pilot performance is cited as one of the reasons for the cause of the crash.

In 2007, an accident in Traverse City, Mich., involved a Pinnacle Airlines flight that was operated as Northwest Airlink. The probable cause of the accident was determined by the NTSB to be the pilots’ decision to land at the airport without performing a required landing distance assessment based on runway contamination and conditions. That same year, a Shuttle American flight operating as Delta Connection was involved in an accident, which resulted in 3 passengers suffering minor injuries and substantial damage to the plane.

And in 2006, a Comair flight operating as Delta Connection was involved in an accident in Lexington, Ky.

In fact, the last six fatal domestic airline crashes have involved regional carriers, many of which participate in some sort of code-sharing arrangement.

“In the past twenty years, code-sharing arrangements have so proliferated within commercial aviation that today the vast majority of airlines are involved in what are often complex business and operational arrangements.” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in a press release. “We have investigated many accidents in which passengers bought tickets on a major carrier and flew all or part of their trip on a different carrier – one that may have been operating to different safety standards than the carrier that issued the ticket. While all carriers are required to meet minimum standards, a clearer picture and deeper understanding of the best safety practices for code-sharing arrangements are the goals of this symposium.”

The NTSB’s two-day symposium, titled “Airline Code-Sharing Arrangements and Their Role in Aviation Safety,” will wrap up on October 27th.

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