“Frontline” almost never fails to make its case, but it seems fairly easy to make here, through interviews with former pilots, Federal Aviation Administration investigators and grieving relatives of those who died on Flight 3407. Cockpit transcripts reveal two underpaid, unexperienced pilots yawning and complaining about their grueling commutes. They lost control of their plane just a month after the nation had been celebrating the cool, experienced reserve shown by Chesley Sullenberger, who successfully landed his disabled US Airways jetliner in the Hudson River with no casualties. The difference? A captain like Sully is expensive.
That cheap ticket you found online is the byproduct of deregulation in the extreme, which allows major carriers to transfer to smaller carriers the high-cost (and all liabilities) of what once might have been a costlier, premium flight. According to “Frontline,” half of all domestic flights are now handled by smaller carriers, no matter what the brand-name logo on the plane's tail might suggest. And, as it happens, the last six fatal crashes in the United States involved commuter flights.