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Flying Blind, Flying Safe: The Former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation Tells You Everything You Need to Know to Travel Safer by Air [Mass Market Paperback]

Mary Schiavo , Sabra Chartrand


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Book Description

April 1 1998
Written by a crusading former government official, FLYING BLIND, FLYING SAFE is the book that must be read by everyone who flies. In it is the vital airline safety information the public has a right--and a need--to know: the most dangerous planes and flying conditions; the least secure vs the best equipped airports; which carriers to avoid and why; and ways to help yourseslf increase safety.

As Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1990-1996, Mary Schiavo made waves, headlines, and enemies and brought about much needed change during her administration. A former assistant U.S. attorney and licensed pilot, Transportation's "top cop" became concerned early on with what she believed were holes in the aviation safety net and set out to investigate unsettling allegations of fraud, mismanagement, waste, abuse, corruption, and duplicity within the airline industry and the FAA itself. What she uncovered were deep-seated internal policies of denial and cover-up, a shocking lack of concern for public safety and a conscious acceptance of substandard work, parts, maintenance, supervision, and security procedures and practices that have been exposed by dozens of air disasters--including the tragic ValuJet crash in Florida and TWA flight 800 in New York--and which will doubtless be responsible for many more unless Schiavo's warnings are heeded.

FLYING BLIND, FLYING SAFE is your guide to safer, smarter air travel.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 433 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / General; New Upd edition (April 1 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038079330X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380793303
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,257,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Schiavo's book is fraught with many factual errors. April 28 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Schiavo's book, although meant to be a blockbuster, was obviously completed in a rush after she resigned her position as Inspector General in charge of overseeing the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). It could have been a much better book if the timing wasn't so critical. Numerous factual errors and some amatuerish prose (even with a second author) make the book quite a bit less than it could have been. Although the book contains references, there is no index (a large omission in any work of non-fiction).

First, it must be realized that the FAA has many good and conscientious employees who try to do
the job of overseeing our nation's air carrier industry with too few resources. The FAA's
organizational structure is just too bureaucratic for many of its employees to think they can make a
tangible difference individually. Second, the dual mandate that the FAA both promote and oversee
the aviation industry might be too dichotomous in nature for both mandates to be served effectively.
Third, Schiavo paints a picture that airlines are constantly attempting to cut corners in safety matters if they weren't restrained from doing so by the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) and the FAA. Contrary to this belief, most carriers would continue to insist on a safe operation even if the FAA did not exist. When the statistics are perused, most of the air carriers in the world are safe, many outstandingly so. An air carrier's very existence, economically-speaking, demands a reasonably safe operation be maintained.

Schiavo does, however, make some very good points in areas that need improving. But like many
issues in today's society, and specifically concerning the dichotomy of airline safety, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of a continuum (the opposite ends of which might be marked "Unsafe" and "Safe"), with the safety of individual carriers, aircraft, and airports occupying different locations on the continuum.

The following excepts illustrate some of the technical foibles that can be found throughout the book:

. . . "if no one was hurt or killed, then its just an incident, not an accident." (p. 66)

Schiavo needs to review the definitions of "incident" and "accident."

Refers to a sextant as a "sexton." (p. 160)

"In tests, wings are flexed as much as 150 degrees from their normal position." (p. 214)

Figure this one out.

Referring to Lockheed's L-1011, "With the DC-10, their past troubles made a lot of people wary of
flying them." (p. 229)

The L-1011 is one of the safest and systems-redundant aircraft in the air; this author knows of no previous or current inherent problems with the L-1011 that would make passengers "wary" of flying on them.

Referring to aging aircraft, "It can't be mere coincidence that TWA is getting rid of its fleet of old 747s and replacing them with newer 767s and 757's." (p. 231)

TWA is replacing its 747s for purely economic reasons, with its high fuel and crew costs. An
airplane may be used safely as long as the carrier deems necessary as long as it is properly
maintained.

Again referring to the L-1011, "The plane has only six exits as opposed to eight in most planes."
(p.234)

The L-1011 has eight exits.

Definition of "cross-check." (p.241)

Huh?

Definition of "pilot deviations." (p. 249)

Includes inadvertent altitude, heading, or course deviations, usually due to misunderstanding with
ATC (Air Traffic Control) or complacency.

Referring to wind shear, "It is also a mystery--no one really understands how it affects plane
performance." (p. 288)

Wind shear has been actively studied since the 1975 Eastern B-727-225 accident at JFK (which the
author mistakenly refers to as an L-1011 on page 265).

Although there are many more errors in the book, the foregoing is a sample. For most passengers,
the most useful and accurate chapters in the book are: Chapter 15 "Straighten Up and Fly Right, and
Chapter 16 "Flying Healthy." Arguably, the most unusual and entertaining chapter is Chapter 7
"Relative Truth: CULT-ure at the FAA," which describes some of the bizarre practices employed at FAA management seminars conducted by Gregory May.

"Flying Blind, Flying Safe" is a decent read if one realizes the point of view portrayed by the author
is an extreme one. Still, for its impact, Flying Blind, Flying Safe has to be almost on par with
Rodney Stich's "The Real Unfriendly Skies: Saga of Corruption" (3rd ed., Reno, NV: Diablo
Western Press, 1990, 656 pp.)
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money. July 21 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a 10,000+ hour turbojet pilot, my opinion is that the book is riddled with falsehoods labeled as fact. Ms. Schiavo has done aviation in general, and the flying public specifically, a grave injustice with her unqualified writings and scare tactics. Example: she claims that pressurized air inside a commercial jetliner is sealed inside and everyone breathes the same contaminated air for the duration of the flight. Fact: There is a constant exchange of air every two or three minutes. If there wasn't, the aircraft would eventually rupture like an over-inflated tire. Ms. Schiavo's area of expertise is law, not aviation. She imagined conspiracies everywhere she looked. She claims to be an experienced pilot where in fact she has very little flight time as a pilot and has flown nothing more complex than a simple single-engine aircraft. The book could have been superlative had she researched the subject, used the services of an experienced aviation advisor, and been far less emotional. My advice is to wait for a factual re-write. Don't waste your money on this one.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Paper never refused ink. April 3 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ms. Schiavo's shrill tone and cheap scare tactics start on the cover and continue through the final page. My mother once told me that 'paper never refused ink,' and this tome is a fine demonstration of that phenomenon. The author's shameless effort to frighen naieve travelers about the safety of our air transportation system is exceeded only by her book tour rhetoric. Although not depicted in the book, I enjoyed seeing her with a smoke-hood over her face on the Oprah Show
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Entertainment but questionable facts June 10 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Yes, there are some good points Ms. Schiavo raises. She does not provide evidence that older aircraft are less safe but it's something to think about...even in 1998 it is hard to avoid a 727,
She certainly knocks Delta...a shabby smelly plane and says she has gotten letters regarding Delta. From whom? About what? My last flights on Delta were fine, the planes were immaculate, the flights were on time and were uneventful. What's her hangup with Delta.
She discusses the belief that flying is safer than driving. All you have to do is walk around Downtown Seattle and see how people drive. It is obvious that flying is safer than driving.
We can look at a time factor as she proposes or look at it this way. Say 10,000 people were driving from Seattle to Washington DC and 10,000 people were flying from Seattle to Washington DC which would have the higher percentage of those arriving in Washington DC alive?
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flying Blind Flying Safe-Is a Must Read for Anyone Who Flies March 3 2000
By Maureen M. Horansky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Mary Schiavo has done an excellent job of investigating and reporting on FRAUD and GREED and outright DANGER in the airline industry.It is a must read for any one who flies daily or steps on an airplane just once in their life. She exposes the big boys who pressure the FAA to give them approval on planes before they have been fully tested, known problems with the Valujet planes and many other Airlines. If you HAVE to fly at least take the time to find out what airlines you should use and what airlines have horrible ratings. Mary risked her life to get into print- what we need to know. I have read some of the other reviews of her book -duly noting that they couldn't even SPELL correctly, let alone write a book. They also asked to remain anonymous. I am sure by writing this book Mary hurt a lot of people in the airline industry and it has been a grave embarrassment for them. Well, sometimes industry has to be EMBARRASSED to save innocent lives! For instance the new problems involving the Alaskan airlines.If her book saves one life...we can all say...AMEN. Read the book...draw your own conclusions.I am not a friend of Marys' or involved in the airline industry, but I intend to be an educated consumer.

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