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Arrow grounded

FIRST came the Federal Aviation Administration's grounding of most of Arrow Air's fleet after FAA inspectors found unapproved spare parts in use on Arrow planes. Then the Air Force suspended Arrow's contract to fly military passengers. And now Arrow has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy law and halted its scheduled passenger flights.

And not a moment too soon, if reports of FAA inspectors' discovery of unapproved spare parts on the planes are accurate.

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Arrow Air is the carrier whose DC-8 crashed near Gander, Newfoundland, in December, killing 248 US soldiers and eight crew members.

The cause of the crash is undetermined as yet, and there is no indication whether unapproved parts were involved. Still, a cloud of suspicion persists that airline safety is being shortchanged and corners cut to save a buck.

And aviation is not the only endeavor nowadays which is troubled with a sense of laxity of standards, of scrambling to meet a too-hasty timetable, of scrimping to stay within a too-tight budget.

Arrow has protested that the spare parts in question -- 68 of them identified by FAA inspectors -- were used with the prior blessing of the FAA.

If this is true, it would seem that a review of FAA standards themselves is called for. Inspectors, moreover, need to eyeball the actual work done on planes, and not just the maintenance logbooks.

The economic loss alone -- to say nothing of the human loss -- of a tragedy like the one in Gander will easily outweigh the nickels and dimes saved by cutting corners on maintenance.


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