FAA Says It Hasn’t Lifted United Airlines Suspension After Recent Safety Scares

The FAA is still working to make sure United is compliant with safety regulations after several incidents, including an engine fire, occurred earlier this year.
FAA Says It Hasn’t Lifted United Airlines Suspension After Recent Safety Scares
A United Airlines plane is seen at a gate at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas, United States, on October 7, 2020. ( DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Jacob Burg

United Airlines says that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is allowing the company to add new planes and routes again after a series of recent incidents, but the FAA refuted that claim in a May 16 statement to The Epoch Times.

The FAA initiated a formal evaluation into United in March to ensure the airline was “complying with safety regulations; identifying hazards and mitigating risk; and effectively managing safety” after multiple accidents, including an engine fire and a tire falling off a plane during takeoff.

“The FAA has not approved any expansion of United Airlines’ routes or fleets. The Certificate Holder Evaluation Program that the FAA is conducting for United is ongoing, and safety will determine the timeline for completing it,” the FAA said.

The FAA explained that agency personnel will be required to be present when United conducts its final inspections of any newly delivered aircraft that replace older models.

United Airlines did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

The company made an internal announcement to employees on Thursday, saying there was some “good news” about its progress.

“After careful review and discussion about the proactive safety steps United has taken to date, our FAA Certificate Management Office has allowed us to begin restarting our certification activities, including new aircraft and routes, and we will continue to coordinate closely with the FAA,” the United memo said.

One of the incidents that triggered the FAA review involved an older Boeing 737-800 that was missing an aluminum panel after it arrived at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Oregon on March 15. The flight departed from San Francisco and made a safe landing before officials noticed the missing panel during a post-flight inspection.

A different incident on March 7 involved another United flight departing San Francisco. The plane, which was bound for Japan, lost one of the six tires on its left-side main landing gear just seconds after takeoff. Pilots made a safe landing in Los Angeles without any injuries.

Engine Fire

Three days before that incident, a United flight from Houston to Fort Myers, Texas, had to turn around after one of the jet’s engines caught on fire. Passengers took video of the flames billowing out of the engine mid-flight, but no one was injured.

During a February flight arriving in Newark, New Jersey, an issue occurred when a plane’s rudder pedals, used for steering on the runway, failed as it came in for a landing. There were no injuries. The jet involved was a Boeing 737 Max 8, the same plane involved in the fatal 2018 and 2019 crashes.

The 737 Max 9 was the model involved in the Jan. 5 mid-flight door panel blowout of an Alaska Airlines flight.

On March 8, officials evacuated passengers from a United flight that had rolled off a runway in Houston and gotten stuck in the grass. None of the 160 passengers or six crew members were hurt.

Following the incidents, United CEO Scott Kirby told customers that they were unrelated and that the airline was safe.

“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety,” he said in a March 15 memo to customers.

“While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

Mr. Kirby said United would review each incident separately and determine if any changes were warranted with safety procedures and training.

At the time, the FAA said its evaluation would make sure United was following safety guidelines and regulations and identifying any potential risks.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jacob Burg reports on the state of Florida for The Epoch Times. He covers a variety of topics including crime, politics, science, education, wildlife, family issues, and features. He previously wrote about sports, politics, and breaking news for the Sarasota Herald Tribune.