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FRONTLINE: Flying Cheap

Airs Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Crash site of Continental Connection Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, N.Y., Fe...

Credit: David Duprey/AP Photo

Above: Crash site of Continental Connection Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, N.Y., Feb. 2009.

One year after the deadliest domestic airline accident in seven years, "Flying Cheap" investigates the crash of Continental 3407 in Buffalo, NY, and discovers a dramatically changed airline industry, where regional carriers now account for half of the nation's daily departures.

Top U.S. Airports for Regional Departures

Use this map to view the regionals flying out of top U.S. airports--and their safety records.

The Interviews

Read interviews with regional pilots, industry reps, government regulators and aviation watchdogs.

Pilot Community's Reaction

Read the pilot community's early reaction to "Flying Cheap" after viewing a pre-broadcast excerpt.

The rise of the regionals and arrival of low-cost carriers have been a huge boon to consumers, and the industry insists that the skies remain safe.

But many insiders are worried that now, 30 years after airline deregulation, the aviation system is being stretched beyond its capacity to deliver service that is both cheap and safe.

Clay Foushee, a Congressional investigator and former airline executive, calls the crash a watershed event. “It’s become the symbol of everything that’s wrong with the industry.”

Bill Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, seconds that: “There are some accidents that really make you step back and take a look at what’s happening in the system. [Flight] 3407 forces us to look at issues like commuting, fatigue. It forces us to look at training. It forces us to look at fundamental regulatory relationships. It’s a very important event.”

The regional industry argues that flying is safer than ever. Despite the string of accidents among the regionals, the overall fatality rate has continued to decline since deregulation. “The regulations and shared responsibility that have been built over decades have given American travelers the safest system of transportation the world has ever known,” says Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association.

Share your thoughts and read other people's stories. This program originally aired February 9, 2010.

Past episodes of FRONTLINE are available for online viewing. FRONTLINE is on Facebook, and follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter.

Full Program: Frontline: Flying Cheap

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Watch Flying Cheap on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Video Excerpt: Frontline: Flying Cheap

In this revealing sneak peek from "Flying Cheap," FRONTLINE provides glimpse into the lives of regional airline pilots—from low pay and long hours to nights in cramped "crash pads."

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