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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The data on airline safety that will be available via the Internet in February won’t be much use to the average consumer, a University of Tennessee engineering professor said Friday.

 “Most people will have difficulty interpreting what’s there,” said Dr. Mancil Milligan, professor of aerospace engineering. “It’s not going to tell you the safest airline to fly if you are going from Knoxville to Denver.

 “Suppose you see that an airline was fined $2 million. That could be for anything from poor record keeping to sloppy maintenance to unqualified crew members.”

 The Valujet crash last May raised public interest in airline safety records. But the Valujet tragedy illustrates the way certain data can be misleading, Milligan said.

 “The crash had nothing to do with anything the Federal Aviation Administration was investigating. It had to do with a vendor and what they put on the plane. The vendor certified the cargo was one thing when it was another. It could have happened to any airline.”

 Milligan said posting the safety records is “a step in the right direction” because it may encourage airlines to avoid any kind of violation they possible can.

 “The negative publicity may be more of a penalty than the fine,” he said.

 Contact: Dr. Mancil Milligan (423-974-5250)