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Get ready for the next set of rules and regulations that will make air travel even more expensive and potentially more dangerous than it already is — unless the Bush administration rids the Federal Aviation Administration of its infestation of lunatic liberal regulators.

A USA Today headline on Tuesday blared, “Are passengers getting enough oxygen?” In the story, the paper said, “As the number of reported heart attacks, faintings and other medical emergencies aboard airlines continues to soar, the government is considering changing the way cabins are pressurized to provide more oxygen to passengers.”

Are passengers getting enough oxygen? Well, gee whiz, I’m not sure — are they arriving at destinations dead or alive? If they’re alive, I’d say they’re getting enough oxygen, wouldn’t you?

The USA Today piece continued: “The Federal Aviation Administration and scientists across the industry are re-evaluating a standard that was set decades ago and based on studies of healthy servicemen in altitude chambers. The modern airline cabin looks very different, as aging baby boomers — many with health problems that can worsen suddenly and sometimes fatally — fly farther and longer than ever before.”

The article says that scientists and “experts” (there’s that word again) are increasingly beginning to believe that passengers suffer from hypoxia — or a decrease in blood-oxygen content — because of inadequate oxygenation aboard jetliners.

This phenomenon, “experts” believe, is getting worse, and as you might expect, many of them have already hinted at requiring more government regulation to force airlines (and, by default, aircraft makers) to provide planes that don’t contribute to this so-called hypoxia crisis.

Groan. Does it ever end?

This is just what the airline industry needs to suck even more “air” from its shrinking balloon — more regulation, more expensive “safety” requirements and more federally-funded (and likely phony) science to “substantiate” the “validity” of these new “findings.”

But wait, the researchers say, if there’s no problem, then how come so many more people who travel by air are suffering heart attacks, fainting spells and other problems?

Maybe that’s because so many more people are traveling by air these days. It’s a simple matter of mathematics to me; the more people that travel by air, the more airborne emergencies and medical problems you’re going to have.

And maybe its not because of a lack of oxygen at altitude but because — overall — the lifestyles we live are, at best, “health-challenged.”

After all, more than 50 percent of us are considered overweight; we eat far too much junk food, exercise too little and have lots of pressure on us to make a living these days (which can lead to heart problems and other illnesses like high blood pressure).

So if that’s true, what real good would come from forcing the airline industry to spend tens of billions of dollars on improving cabin oxygen levels? For Pete’s sake, Americans have been flying for years, and now, suddenly, this oxygen thing is a “problem”?

I don’t buy it. Neither do many other industry pros.

For instance, seasoned airline industry officials blame alcohol for many of the medical emergencies aboard flights these days. In fact, some have advocated not serving alcohol aboard planes any more, a) because of the medical emergencies drinking could provoke, and b) because too damned many drunks fly these days and then take out their frustrations on flight crews and other passengers.

Others say the push to mandate more cabin oxygen is simply an avoidance of reality.

“I feel sorry for somebody who has vascular problems or breathing problems, but maybe they shouldn’t be flying,” airline captain Dave Heekin told USA Today. “If you are going to make it comfortable for the most susceptible passengers, you’re going to have an airplane that you’re not going to be able to fly. I have compassion for them, but you can’t do everything to the lowest common denominator.”

That sounds about right. Clearly we have far too many people in this country who seem to think life is supposed to be a 100 percent risk-free endeavor, and that no matter the cost — literally — U.S. policy on the private and government level should reflect that fantasy.

Capt. Heekin believes passengers ought to take more responsibility for themselves, which — these days — is a novel concept. “I’m tired of the flight attendants telling me we have a passenger with breathing problems and we may have to land in Omaha,” he told USA Today.

As long as there are humans on this earth, there are going to be humans with medical problems, whether they fly, drive a car or ride a mule to get around.

Legislation, new rules and new regulations won’t change that, nor will they make the problem disappear. So what’s the point?

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