American Airlines’ regional carrier gets safety warning from FAA
A commuter plane was seconds away from landing at a regional airport in Illinois last March when the pilots realized they’d made a potentially fatal mistake: They were aimed at the wrong runway.
If the plane didn’t divert at the last second, there was a “high probability” the aircraft wouldn’t have had room to stop, an inspector said. The pilots avoided a “potentially catastrophic situation.”
This close call is one of multiple instances of alleged pilot error included in a Federal Aviation Administration warning to Envoy Air, the largest regional carrier for American Airlines.
An FAA document describes “consistent evidence showing potential lack of airmanship,” unsafe and poor piloting by multiple Envoy Air flight crews over the past two years.
Experts are warning that some regional services — generally contracted operators or sister companies to the big airlines — are still not operating at the same safety level as their mainline partners.
Envoy Air is not a household name, but it is owned by American Airlines and its planes connect smaller cities nationwide with American’s hubs like Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, and Miami. It flies 185 American Eagle-branded aircraft on 1,000 daily flights to over 150 destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Unseasoned travelers might not even notice that a flight is operated by Envoy Air and not an American crew. Besides checking the flight itinerary for a regional name like American Eagle, passengers can look for a smaller plane, generally 100 seats or less — or tighter seating configurations, like only one or two seats on either side of the aisle.
Envoy Air said that it has been cooperating with the FAA and pilot union “to transparently and collaboratively examine the root cause of each potential issue and take any necessary corrective actions if needed.”
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees,” Envoy spokeswoman Minnette Vélez-Conty said in a statement. “If issues are raised — either internally by our team or by the FAA — we work to address them immediately.”
The FAA wrote it will work with the airline to develop an “action plan” to resolve the “unsafe operational trends.”
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