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FAA Spanks American Airlines, Grounding To Follow?

January 4, 2010 at 9:11 AM | by | Comments (0)

American Airlines had an abnormally bad December, and their January is about to get a lot worse because of it. The airline had three landing mishaps last month, with wingtips touching the ground twice and that nasty runway overrun in Jamaica. Now the FAA is stepping up to probe whether the accidents and near-accidents were just a run of bad luck, or whether there's something systemic going on.

There's a lot of confusion about what exactly "stepping up" means, with reports ranging from "looking to conduct a major review" to "new oversight rules." What's actually going on is somewhere in the middle: having three incidents in one month sends up all kinds of statistical red flags. The FAA obviously conducts investigations on each incident, but the combination also triggers heightened scrutiny of the airline's overall operations. If lax safety standards line up with whatever they think caused the accidents, then enforcement actions start kicking in. We're a long way from that.

For what it's worth there's a robust debate on this going on in the FlyerTalk forums. Some seem inclined to believe that this is security theater on the FAA's part, since in contrast to many other airlines American Airlines has a reputation for hiring seasoned former military pilots instead of unreliable private flight school instapilots. On the other hand the airline hasn't hired a new pilot in a while and they have had more accidents than other airlines recently. So it's not like the FAA can afford to not investigate. We'll keep an eye on this and let you know if there's anything more than a statistical blip going on.

[Photo: K50 Dude / Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· FAA watching American after December mishaps [Star Telegram]
· Airline News [Jaunted]
· Airline Safety [Jaunted]

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