Committed to Flying : Commuters: Despite American Eagle crashes, many at Oxnard Airport are undeterred, citing overall safety of the craft.


American Eagle passengers flying out of Oxnard Airport on Wednesday said that two recent crashes by the airline have not raised enough concern for them to consider changing their travel habits.

Several said they were troubled by news of Tuesday’s fatal crash near Raleigh, N.C.--the second wreck in as many months. But the convenience and overall safety record of the 19-seat craft flown out of Oxnard make driving to Los Angeles International Airport an unacceptable alternative, many said.

“Every time I go to Washington, D.C., or to LAX, I fly out of here,” said James Jones, a U.S. Navy engineer from Camarillo. “It’s safer than driving.”


The day after 15 people died in the American Eagle crash in North Carolina, it was business as usual at Oxnard Airport, where commuter jet service is available from both American Eagle and United Express.

Both firms offer seven weekday flights to Los Angeles on 19-seat jets that airline officials say are routinely filled. Transfers to anywhere in the world are available from Los Angeles.

The accident Tuesday followed an American Eagle commuter plane crash Oct. 31 outside Chicago that killed all 68 people on board.

The planes operated by American Eagle in Oxnard are British Aerospace Jetstreams similar to the one that crashed and split open in a steady drizzle Tuesday night near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, a company official said.

United Express flies Beechcraft 1900 turboprop planes that are “as safe as any plane flying,” a company employee said.

A spokesman for American Airlines, American Eagle’s parent company, said the airline has no plans to cancel any more of its commuter flights.


One Wednesday night flight out of Oxnard was canceled for an unspecified maintenance problem.

Last week the firm grounded its 41 ATR commuter planes after the FAA banned the turboprops from flying in icy weather. Ice forming on wings is suspected of having contributed to the October crash.

American Airlines acknowledged that some passengers had canceled their flying plans, but could not provide numbers.

But on Wednesday, Ralph Logan and Julie Blackmon of Camarillo were bound for Montgomery, Ala., via Los Angeles and then Nashville, Tenn. Both said they were not worried about the safety of the small aircraft, despite the recent fatalities.

“It doesn’t concern me that much because I’ve taken these flights so many times,” said Logan, another engineer from Camarillo. “If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. You can’t change your life.”

Blackmon said she had confidence in American Eagle’s commuter service.

“I feel safer flying than I do driving on the roads every day,” said Blackmon, a registered nurse. “If there’s a problem, they won’t fly the planes.”


Passenger Ron Chegwidden of Ojai agreed with Blackmon. He said he flies regularly and that American Airlines and its subsidiaries are known for treating customers well.

“You can’t overlook the crashes,” said Chegwidden, on his way to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a journey that required him to take two more planes. “But I have more confidence in American than I do in a lot of airlines.

“If I had my druthers I’d take a larger plane,” he said. “But I don’t have that option.”

Jeff North, a Dallas restaurant worker who arrived Wednesday to train employees at a new franchise in Oxnard, said he was not altogether comfortable with the small commuter airlines.

“I personally don’t like the crop-dusters, but that’s just my opinion,” the 25-year-old said. “I wish they had regular planes that flew here.”

Dave Deneau, a computer analyst from Ventura on his way Wednesday to Norfolk, Va., said he is a frequent traveler on commuter jetliners.

“What difference does safety make?” he asked. “I have a job to do. When I get there, I thank the Lord.”


* N.C. TRAGEDY: Engine failed before plane crash, investigators say. A4