ST. GEORGE – SkyWest Airlines is taking issue with the U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Aviation Administration over two civil penalties it proposes to impose against the airline – one for $320,000 and one for $911,000 – predicated on FAA allegations the airline operated aircraft not in compliance with federal aviation regulations.
In a statement released by SkyWest Monday, the airline said it is disappointed with the FAA’s proposed penalty.
“SkyWest has worked with the FAA to ensure that our aircraft procedures and appropriate checks are conducted as outlined within our maintenance program,” SkyWest’s statement said.
SkyWest Airlines, headquartered in St. George, runs 1,800-2,000 flights per day across its airline system, SkyWest Director of Corporate Communications Marissa Snow said. The FAA proposed penalties relate to issues previously resolved and paperwork that may not be required.
“This is related to paperwork,” she said,”and paperwork that it’s questionable whether or not it was even necessary.”
FAA’s complaint with $320,000 proposed penalty
The FAA alleges SkyWest failed to inspect certain main landing gear components on four Bombardier CL-600 jets at required intervals for wear that could lead to an unsafe condition or failure of a component. Further, it alleges SkyWest operated the aircraft on more than 6,700 flights when the inspections were overdue.
“This is a very old complaint, it’s been resolved,” Snow said, “it was over two years ago – the period in question was over two years ago.”
The component referred to is a small part of the landing gear called a trunnion that requires regular inspections – inspections that, Snow said, occurred. It really is like a really small piece of landing gear, she said.
“It’s more of a record documentation issue in question.”
FAA’s complaint with $911,000 proposed penalty
The FAA alleges SkyWest failed to inspect the cargo door skins on two Bombardier CL-600 jets at required intervals. The inspections were required by an Airworthiness Directive issued in 2006 specific to all Bombardier CL-600 jets after cracks were discovered in the aluminum cargo door skin of a CL-600 during fatigue testing.
The FAA determined, it said in its statement Friday, that regular inspections of that type of aircraft for similar cracking could help prevent a situation in which a cracked skin could lead to an accident or unsafe condition.
We’re going back to at least 2006, Snow said of the time frame involved. Further:
All of the inspections were completed correctly and on time, safety of flight was never compromised. It’s also important to note that no defects on the cargo skin were found, inspections were completed on time, and no defects were found.
So, the FAA is alleging that additional paperwork was required; however the manufacturer, which is Bombardier, is stating that additional paperwork was not required on at least one of the aircraft in question.
The manufacturer, Bombardier Inc. is headquartered out of Montréal, Québec, Canada. Requests for comment from the company’s media representatives are pending response as this report is published.
The FAA alleges SkyWest operated the aircraft subject to the cargo skin inspection directive on a total of 15,969 flights when inspections were overdue.
“Even the allegations – those 15,000 – is debatable,” Snow said. “We take issue even with that number because it’s not correct.”
Priority on safety
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said: “Safety is our top priority. We expect operators to comply fully with all FAA regulations and directives.”
Skywest said in its written statement: “We are committed to ensuring every flight we operate is safe and we look forward to meeting with the FAA to review the claims in more detail.
According to the FAA’s statement, SkyWest has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letters to respond to the agency.
Note: As this report is published, FAA Public Affairs representative Allen Kenitzer, who issued the FAA’s press statements on the proposed penalties, has not responded to St. George News’ requests for further comments.
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