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Government, industry aim to make air travel safer

Faced with the threat of seven to 10 airline crashes a year in the next century if they fail to act, government and the airline industry have joined forces to find ways to cut the accident rate.

"We need to focus on where we get the biggest return for our money, not the issue du jour," Mike Rioux, senior vice president of the Air Transport Association, the airline industry trade group, said Wednesday.He said the airlines, manufacturers of aircraft, engines and components, and government agencies have formed the Commercial Aviation Safety Strategy Team to organize their efforts.

"We weren't coordinated before. . . . We needed to focus on trying to bring a government-industry partnership together," Rioux told reporters.

"It's fundamental that NASA, FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), industry work this together," added Michael S. Lewis, aviation safety manager for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Rioux said there are about 1.5 major accidents for every million airline takeoffs worldwide. The rate in North America is 0.5 per million.

But expected increases in air travel could mean seven to 10 accidents per year in the United States by 2015, and a crash every two weeks worldwide, unless that accident rate is reduced, according to industry estimates.

The Gore Commission last year called on the industry and government to find ways to cut the accident rate by 80 percent.

If government and industry can make this partnership work, Rioux said, "we can lower the accident rate by 80 percent, maybe even achieve zero accidents."

The team was launched about 18 months ago and has been developing agendas and bringing in various interest groups since then, he said.