I watched the show last night and found a lot of familiar themes about how our political system interacts with our culture and values. If you saw the program then you saw how our legal system has been used to advance the private interest of the major airlines at the expense of public safety and employee welfare. This is not unique to the airline industry, but for those of us who fly we know it is beyond a dangerous disregard for safety.
I spent the last 4 years of my working career driving an 18 wheeler around the country, the rules for truck drivers are more stringent then for these regional airline operations when in comes to hours of service. Truck drivers are required to log "On Duty Not Driving" time as well as driving time. Both classifications are considered as work and the limit is 11 hours which must be followed by a 10 hour off duty period.
I can tell you how this really works, first off drivers are paid by the mile so all the incentive is to run hard. Second, every trucking company will pitch safety first and will not directly advocate cheating on the log book. Sounds greats but this is how it works, if a driver refuses a load by saying he is too tired to make the delivery schedule then he is given a weeks worth of short run loads with lots of down time so he makes no $. Drivers refer to the log book as the "comic book" because it is completed at the end of the day when you can "adjust" your activities to fit the logging rules. Some guys run 2 or even three log books in case they're stopped by the "diesel bears", the states' commercial vehicle enforcement patrol who run the scales on the interstate and some state routes.
What we have is a culture where the political class writes regulations that allow them to stand in front of the public and proclaim "victory" for public safety. The agency responsible for enforcing these "regulations" are always under-staffed and under-funded, and in some cases packed with political hacks who's agenda is to "promote" the industry.
Here is my prediction on how the regional airline mess will be handled. We will see some "commission" formed to study the issue and recommend changes in the regulations. Some folks will advocate "stronger" rules and better enforcement maybe even fines against airlines that fail "audits". We'll see a lot of smiles and handshakes in front of the cameras for this "bipartisan" breakthrough. The airlines will promise to focus on safety and in a week it's off the front page and back to business as usual.
If the american public really cared about safety we would take away the economic incentives that are in place and change the playing field. This would certainly add cost to the price of our tickets and probably send some passengers over to surface transportation but, "you can't have your cake and eat it to", as we say. The very idea of interfering in private industry by the government will be met with cries of socialism or worse. The industry and the political class know this so rest assured it won't happen.
I sure my comments will set off an interesting discussion.