This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 12, 2001.
BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Impact segment tonight, this airline crash today is -- comes on top of a devastated airline industry. Just when people were coming back to the airline terminals, this happens.
Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio is Mary Schiavo, the former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Anything about this crash hits you in the sense that it -- they're leaning now toward a terrible accident, a mechanical failure. But anything hits you that you felt was unusual?
MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL, DOT: Well, I mean, initially, the unusual thing is the place and the timing. Obviously JFK, another tragedy, black plumes of smoke over New York City. But when you look at actually what happened to the plane and what is known, it does look very similar to a couple other accidents. And when you're sleuthing as to the cause, that's usually what you start with, besides obviously grabbing the evidence.
You look for other clues. It looks surprisingly similar to a previous American Airlines tragedy, 1979. A flight out of Chicago's O'Hare where an engine separated from the plane. In that case, it was a DC-10, shortly after takeoff. Controlled flight after was virtually impossible. It was left engine, did a left turn and went straight in.
And also, curiously, this kind of engine, this GE engine, in September of 2000, the engine literally came apart on a U.S. Airways plane. It was on the ground. Fortunately, the engine just completely separated in two halves because of an uncontained engine failure. So both the engine and this airline have had similar, strangely similar instances before.
O'REILLY: You know, Americans feel that airlines -- flying on a plane is safe. And it is, statistically. But now we have another situation where, and I hope it doesn't turn into a TWA 800, where you got these theories flying all over the place. The government looks confused. They don't really know. Do you foresee something like that happening here?
SCHIAVO: No. And I think we actually saw a little bit of reaction that's different from TWA 800 already. We had the NTSB step forward. They actually have a new spokeswoman. She's pretty decisive. I've actually worked with her before. They stepped out. It's almost like they've had a rehearsal for this. They're even doing the press conferences, the same place as TWA 800. They've already announced that they have at least the cockpit voice recorder.
I think as soon as they get information, they will release it, very mindful of the fact that TWA 800 was a painful experience for all the government agencies, in addition to the American people.
O'REILLY: Yes, I hope they do, because if this isn't terrorism, and I think the odds are 10 to 1 that it is not, I mean, we got to calm the waters, because Americans are spooked. Just when they're coming back, just before Thanksgiving, you know, they're running about I guess 80 percent now of what they were before the terror attack. Now Americans are, I know, they're going, look, it's just too much of a problem to go to the airport, stand in the lines, go through security. And now, we don't feel safe in the airplane? I mean, how is the airline industry going to fight that P.R.?
SCHIAVO: Well, I actually think some of the market is sort of sorting itself out. I think for short-haul flights, I mean if it's a, you know, if it's a five-hour drive or less, people simply aren't going to the airport. They say, you know, with the wait and the risk and I'm feeling ill because it's so stressful, they're simply not.
And smaller, regional carriers, sort of the non-first tier are probably going to have to lead the charge on this or they simply won't survive. And then carriers like American are going to have a real tough time now, whether it's terrorism or whether it's a terrible mechanical tragedy. You know, American Airlines, people are kind of associating tragedy with it right now. So I think carriers are going to have to respond in different ways to this tragedy.
O'REILLY: Yes, and it's unfair because I believe that American Airlines is run by professionals. They know what they're doing. And you just can't be perfect all the time. And things are going to happen.
My last question to you, Ms. Schiavo, is this. Is there anything that you would do, if you were in charge? Say you were running American Airlines or United or any of the big ones, to try to regain the confidence in the American people? Because as I said, people don't want to go to the airport anymore. It is an ordeal now. It is painful to go there. Is there anything that can be done?
SCHIAVO: Well, yes. Right now, and I think the airlines that'll come out way ahead on this, is those that go ahead of the government and boldly announce that they are. You know, after all, you have to comply with the FAA regulations, but you can best the Department of Transportation.
And I've heard that some carriers are -- Jet Blue and others have put in new measures. Personally what I would do at this point, if I ran a carrier, what I would actually announce, and I think that people would flock to, that you are going to search every bag, screen every bag, put them in the X-ray machines to do it and get ahead of the curve.
Now some carriers, particularly the largest ones, say that's impossible. That will never sell now. This is the United States of America. We tout the best transportation system in the world, but it's absolutely useless if it's not secure. If it's not secure, it's not the best. It's the worst. And so that's what I would do. I would say, until we have the equipment, old-fashioned hand checks, and look at every bag.
O'REILLY: All right, but that's going to create even more chaos at the airports. So it looks like, it looks bad, Ms. Schiavo. We appreciate your expertise as always.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
O'REILLY: Thank you.
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