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FAA Study Hits Airlines That Fly Commuters

Associated Press

The Federal Aviation Administration reported Friday that a nine-month inspection uncovered safety violations and “what appear to be systemic deficiencies” with the management of the nation’s commuter airlines.

The inspection was announced last March after a series of accidents involving commuter planes.

The FAA said its examination of the commuter industry showed that while there are some air carriers that were found in full compliance with federal air regulations “others demonstrated a need for significant improvements.”

The inspections, which covered 35 airlines, resulted in 1,284 violations of air safety regulations, about a third of which were considered serious enough to warrant a possible civil penalty.

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Important Segment

The commuter airlines, which generally fly aircraft with 30 or fewer seats, have become an increasingly important segment of the commercial airline industry since they often provide feeder traffic for major airlines at busy hub airports. This year, commuter airlines are expected to carry more than 32 million people.

The FAA inspections covered about 20% of 172 commuter air carriers. They followed seven commuter accidents over a four-month period in late 1987 and early 1988 resulting in 56 deaths.

FAA Administrator Allan T. McArtor said in a letter to all commuter airlines:

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“I am particularly concerned about what appear to be systemic deficiencies with management personnel. The most serious findings of the inspections reflected a lack of management knowledge of, and experience with, complex commuter air carrier regulations as well as substandard administration of training and deficient aircraft inspection programs.”

Rapid Growth

The commuter airline industry, responding to the FAA findings, acknowledged some shortcomings and attributed many of the problems to the industry’s rapid growth.

“We were aware that the tremendous growth of regional airlines may have created difficulties for some carriers in filling operational and maintenance posts,” said Duane Ekedahl, president of the Regional Airline Assn. He suggested that the FAA inspection may have been “useful to bring these concerns into focus.”

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