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The FAA Bans United Airlines From Carrying Out Certification Activities as Agency Steps Up Scrutiny Following Slew of Mishaps

The FAA Bans United Airlines From Carrying Out Certification Activities as Agency Steps Up Scrutiny Following Slew of Mishaps

an airplane on the runway

United Airlines admitted on Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made a highly unusual intervention in its daily operation and will scrutinise work processes at the carrier following a series of embarrassing and potentially dangerous mishaps over the last few weeks.

In an internal memo, United’s vice president of corporate safety, Sasha Johnson, said the Chicago-based carrier ‘welcomed’ the FAA’s heightened scrutiny and was “very open to hear from them about what they find and their perspective on things we may need to change to make us even safer”.

As part of the safety probe, the FAA has temporarily banned United from carrying out a variety of certification activities that the airline is normally licensed to carry out.

The airline did not detail what certification activities have been ‘paused’, but several sources claim this includes United’s ability to carry out its own check rides with new Captain’s and Line Check Pilot’s and these activities will now have to be carried out by FAA personnel.

Other unconfirmed reports suggest United will be temporarily barred from starting any new routes which haven’t already gone on sale while new aircraft that are due to be delivered in the coming weeks might not be allowed to fly passengers until the FAA probe is complete.

The FAA’s highly unusual intervention followed a series of accidents and mishaps that have plagued United over the last few weeks. Some of those incidents include:

  • February 6: the rudder pedals on a United Boeing 737 became ‘stuck’ as the Captain was making his approach to land. The NTSB is still investigating this incident.
  • February 19: passengers on a United Boeing 757 flying from San Francisco to Boston noticed that the right-hand side flaps on the aircraft wing were ‘disintegrating’ during the flight.
  • March 7: a tire fell off a United Boeing 777 as it took off from San Francisco International Airport. The tire hit and badly damaged several vehicles parked in an airport parking lot and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing.
  • March 8: the landing gear of a United 737MAX collapsed after the plane rolled onto the grass at the end of the runway at Houston Intercontinental Airport.
  • March 11: a United flight from Sydney to San Francisco had to turn back after suffering a ‘maintenance issue’ shortly after takeoff
  • March 14: a United flight from Dallas Fort Worth, to San Francisco suffered a hydraulic leak shortly before landing.
  • March 15: a 25-year-old United Airlines Boeing 737-800 with 145 passengers onboard lost an external fuselage panel mid-flight after departing San Francisco Airport.

In the leaked internal memo, Johnson wrote: “We have a strong safety culture at United. Still, the number of safety-related events in recent weeks have rightfully caused us to pause and evaluate whether there is anything we can and should do differently”.

“After all, safety is foundational to the success of our airline and we can never it for granted,” Johnson continued.

“As you’d expect, we’ve stepped up our interactions with the FAA recently and they echoed these sentiments. They agree that we need to take an ever close look at multiple areas of our operation to ensure we are doing all we can to promote and drive safety compliance”.

Johnson warned staffers to expect an increased FAA presence across the operation in the coming weeks as federal investigators begin to review United’s work processes, manuals and maintenance facilities.

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