Failure to Fly: Are Aging Airliners Safe?

In 1991, the U.S. Congress passed the Aging Airlines Safety Act. This Act required all airlines to come into compliance with repair rules for aging planes by December 2010. Part of this Act described specific rules and regulations that would ensure the integrity of the plane and the safety of its passengers.

aging aircraft

At the time that this Act went into effect in 2010, there were over 4000 planes that were impacted. As a whole, the major airlines complied with these new safety standards without issue.

Discount Airlines and Older Planes

Many of the discount airliners operate with planes that are twenty or more years old. This allows them to offer discounted rates to their passengers because of their reduced operating expenses. All of these airlines still fall under the Aging Airlines Act and must comply with safety protocol.

As a whole, these airlines have made every effort to remain in compliance. However, there have been cases in the recent past where airlines, in an effort to reduce costs, have not complied with repair standards, placing their clients at risk. Thankfully, some employees reported these issues to the FAA and the airline was temporarily shut down until all repairs were made and passed inspection. These whistleblowers possibly saved many lives.

Famous Whistleblower Case In Recent History

Goldberg Kohn, a law firm specializing in whistleblower cases, says that everyday Americans make the most effective watchdogs. This was never more apparent than in an incident involving Northwest Airlines. Several airline employees approached the Transportation Department’s Inspector and informed the office that the FAA was not enforcing safety standards for aging airliners. They stated that this was especially true for Northwest Airlines, who was rated as the safest airline in the industry.

These whistleblowers, at the risk of losing their jobs, can be credited with exposing one of the largest scandals in airline history. The Inspector’s Office conducted an investigation of the inspections of all the major airlines and found that the FAA and the airlines were not completing necessary repairs to aging planes. Northwest Airlines had over 300 violations, including leaking fuselages and cracks in the body of the plane.

Almost as a confirmation of these problems, in the midst of the investigation, Southwest Flight 812, an aging 737, had to make an emergency landing when a five-foot tear occurred in the roof of the plane upon take off. Due to that event, along with the investigation, airline safety conditions have significantly improved today.

Is It Safe To Fly In An Older Plane?

While there can never be a 100 percent guarantee of safety, flying is still the safest mode of transportation. This even applies to older planes and discount carriers. Since that major whistleblowing event, safety inspectors have been more diligent to make sure that all planes remain in compliance with the Congressional Safety Act.

Of course, there have been a few instances that have occurred since then, but they have been relatively small. Thankfully, the people that work within the airline industry have been very active in reporting failures to comply to the right authorities. These whistleblowers know how important it is for the skies to remain safe.


With air travelers in mind, Richard Freeland shares this information on the safety status of our nation’s airliners. The law firm of Goldberg Kohn at helps whistleblower clients make use of whistleblowing laws to stop fraud, maximize rewards for coming forward, and obtain protection throughout the process.

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