Last week's hearings on the Feb. 12 crash of a commuter plane near Buffalo, N.Y., revealed the less glamorous side of life as a pilot. Details of the pilots' lifestyles, schedules and compensation levels, as reported at the NTSB hearings, have some questioning whether the industry's efforts to slash expenses could compromise safety. Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, says there is no correlation between the two. "Compensation has nothing to do with safety," he says. Other observers suggest that what is needed is a culture change. "The system is legal and to the most extent, it works," said Patrick Smith, a former regional pilot now working as a first officer for a major U.S. airline. "At the root of the problem, there needs to be changes on a cultural level at the regional airlines."
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