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FAA Warns Airlines are Underestimating Weight of Passengers, Baggage
Aired May 12, 2003 - 20:28 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Federal Aviation Administration today told airlines they've been underestimating the weight of the average passenger as well as their bags. As Patty Davis reports, the FAA started looking at weight estimates after a deadly crash earlier this year.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Air Midwest Flight 5481 crashed just 37 seconds after takeoff from Charlotte in January. Just before the crash, Captain Katie Leslie frantically radios air traffic control.
CAPT. KATIE LESLIE, PILOT: We have an emergency for Air Midwest 5481...
DAVIS: Just released control tower tapes also catch the plane's emergency locater transmitter. All 21 on board the Beech 1900 were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into whether faulty maintenance on the plane's elevator cables made the plane hard to control. The NTSB says weight and balance may also be to blame. Those factors are especially critical in smaller aircraft.
BOB FRANCIS, FRM. NTSB VICE CHAIRMAN: It's so important to make sure that your weight and your balance is put in the proper place and that you don't have too much weight total.
DAVIS: The Air Midwest plane was just 100 pounds below its maximum weight limit. The crash spurred the FAA to take a second look at its weight estimates. It had assumed the average person weighed 180 to 185 pounds.
What it found: Passengers actually weigh 20 pounds more. Monday, the agency ordered all air carriers to hike their estimates of average passenger weight by 10 pounds to 190 to 195. And a spokesman said the FAA might hike them further. It also raised estimated bag weights from 25 to 30 pounds. Regional airlines say the changes could cost them money.
DEBORAH MCELROY, REGIONAL AIRLINE ASSN: In the case of some of the 19-seat aircraft operators, the change in weights meant that they could board fewer passengers, one or two fewer passengers. So, obviously, there's the revenue impact of having one or two fewer passengers less on the airplane.
DAVIS: Even so, many commuter airlines now assume their passengers are heavier, much heavier in the case of Air Midwest. Following the January crash in Charlotte, that carrier found its passengers weigh an average of 200 pounds.
Now, as for determining the cause of the crash, federal crash investigators say that they will not have an answer before the end of the year -- Anderson.
COOPER: Patty, I've flown on small very airlines, where they actually sort of estimate your weight and weigh you in times. Are we going to see that on large-scale commercial jets, passengers having to get on a scale in front of everyone?
DAVIS: No, no, we're not going to see that on the large commercial jets at all. They're told, though, that they do have to revise their estimates.
And some of the airlines can decide to weigh passengers if they want to, but, most likely, will just raise their estimates and, if they need to, cut down on the number of passengers who board.
COOPER: Unbelievable. All right, Patty Davis, thanks very much.
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