After FAA Audit, Most U.S. Flights to Resume

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Airlines are wrapping up voluntary re-inspections of MD-80 aircraft that forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights on Wednesday and Thursday. Lapses on inspections of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s triggered the audit.

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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Live - Live from NPR Studios at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, weather reports?

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STEWART: Oh, Arthur. Have you seen that clip, Rachel Martin?

MARTIN: About 45 times this morning. It gets funnier every time, by the way.

STEWART: I don't know if you guys have seen this yet. We're predicting it's going to be huge on YouTube. Guy named Arthur, I - it must be like "Good Morning, Haiti..."

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STEWART: You're delirious. I'm Alison Stewart, and on the show today, we continue our series Meet the Firsts. The Bryant Park Project is talking with some people making breakthroughs in their fields. Today, the first female skier to represent Pakistan in an international ski event, and now she wants to be the first woman to represent Pakistan at the Olympics. We'll hear her story.

MARTIN: Also, some of the best headlines from the front pages of the New York Post. If you don't live in New York, you might not know it, but the headlines from the New York Post are very entertaining and they've been - some of the best ones have been collected in a new book. We have the editor of the book in studio to talk with about - to talk about that with us.

STEWART: "Axis of Weasel." That's a pretty good one, just to give you a little taste, a sampling there. An NPR foreign correspondent, Ivan Watson, stateside for a short time. We talked with him about his reporting from Turkey and the Middle East. What people abroad think about the U.S. election? Apparently, they can't get enough of it, and the odd feeling of being a foreigner in your own land. We'll also get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

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STEWART: Yes, it may be safe to return to the airport today. Scared off by all the news reported of grounded planes and cancelled flights? Well, the nation's airplanes should be ready for lift-off again.

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Mr. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: (As Roger Murdock) We have clearance, Clarence.

Mr. PETER GRAVES: (As Captain Clarence Oveur) Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?

STEWART: All right. Not really an airline spokesperson. Inspections of MD-80 aircraft meant Delta stranded a few thousand passengers in Atlanta, as it began halting 275 flights, the company said. American scrubbed 141 flights yesterday, after dropping 318 on Wednesday.

MARTIN: Both airlines said yesterday they expected to finish up by last night. The inspections were prompted by a Federal Aviation Administration audit of maintenance records of the nation's larger airlines. The FAA is expected to release the results of that audit next week.

STEWART: Late last night, Delta and American apologized to customers who were inconvenienced. In a message on its Web site, Delta also said that voluntary rechecking of a section of the aircraft wiring was, quote, "was the right decision."

MARTIN: But David Stempler, president of the Airline Travelers Association, told the Associated Press that the cancellations could've been handled better.

Mr. DAVID STEMPLER (President, Airline Travelers Association): With all of the ways that they have to communicate with passengers, whether it's by email or by phone or instant messaging, they can certainly do a better job of alerting that their flights are cancelled.

STEWART: For example, traveler Michael Straub was trying to get from Austin to Nashville. He says American cancelled his flight in Texas and then rerouted him on Delta, which then cancelled his connecting flight in Atlanta, and left him stranded there. He spent the night sleeping on a baggage claim carousel and says the airlines were of little help.

Mr. MICHAEL STRAUB (Field Technician, NCR; Stranded American and Delta Passenger): They told me no, we're not able to buy a car for you. We have your best - you know, we have your best interests in mind. I'm like, well, if you have best interests in mind, why don't you give me a car?

MARTIN: Lapses on inspections of Southwest Airlines' Boeing 737s triggered the FAA audit. Airlines were checking to ensure that wiring for an auxiliary hydraulic pump was properly installed, to minimize risks for electrical shorts that could spark fires.

STEWART: But while this may sound alarming, aviation industry consultant Michael Boyd told NPR yesterday there's no cause for concern.

Mr. MICHAEL BOYD (President, The Boyd Group): Don't buy into this nonsense that these are aging airplanes and they're getting unsafe. That is blatantly untrue, normally put out by journalists that really don't know the industry but really want to get some great ink.

STEWART: You can keep up-to-date on this story by going to And let's get some more of today's headlines.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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