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Thu, Apr 02, 2009

Delta Regional Carrier Grounds 60 Jets

Inspections Should Be Done By Friday, Carrier Says

Anyone else getting a bad sense of deja vu? One year -- almost to the day -- after over 3,000 flights were cancelled due to FAA-mandated safety checks on aircraft operated by American Airlines, a regional operator for Delta Air Lines said Wednesday it grounded several dozen 50-seat regional jets to check for compliance with proper maintenance procedures.

The Associated Press reports Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a unit of SkyWest, grounded 60 of its 112 Bombardier CRJ200s after internal audits raised questions about whether federally-mandated safety inspections to the aircrafts' General Electric CF34 turbofans had been performed. ASA spokeswoman Kate Modelo said the airline notified the FAA, and voluntarily pulled the aircraft out of service.

That was little comfort to passengers whose flights were cancelled Wednesday as a result of those groundings... but Modelo said the situation couldn't be helped.

"Safety is our number one priority, and we apologize for the inconvenience this has been causing the passengers," Modolo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding passengers "are being re-accommodated on next available flights."

Modelo added ASA began the inspections Tuesday night at maintenance centers around the country. Those checks should be completed and all affected aircraft back in service by Thursday night.

ASA was absorbed into SkyWest in August 2005, and is one of nine regional operators operating connecting service for mega-carrier Delta. ASA flies exclusively for the Atlanta-based airline.

Wednesday morning, Delta spokeswoman Betsy Dalton said she wasn't sure what the impact on Delta's operations would be from the ASA groundings.

As ANN reported, nearly 3,000 American Airlines domestic flights were cancelled in April 2008 after the FAA ordered that carrier's 300-plane fleet of MD-82 and MD-83 airliners to undergo immediate checks of wiring harnesses. Similar groundings and cancellations affected other MD-80-series operators as well, including Delta.

In the matter that started the FAA's renewed focus on inspection procedures, Southwest Airlines was forced to briefly ground its oldest 737s in March 2008 to verify compliance with a number of airworthiness directives related to fuselage fatigue issues. Earlier this year, the carrier settled up with the agency on the matter, agreeing to pay a $7.5 million fine.

FMI: www.flyasa.com, www.faa.gov

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