FAA Seeks Fines Against Colgan Air Over New York Crash

March 6, 2012

Colgan Air failed to provide adequate rest breaks for crews on some flights within seven months of a 2009 crash near Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people and raised questions about tired pilots, regulators said on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed to fine Colgan, a unit of Pinnacle Airlines Corp, $153,000, accusing it of violations of federal rest rules for pilots and flight attendants on 17 flights.

Colgan flies regional routes for US Airways Group Inc.’s US Airways Express and United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United Express.

Pinnacle believes Colgan had complied with FAA rules and the fine should be reduced or eliminated, the company said in a statement.

“We have worked closely with the FAA as we have revised our safety programs and have invested heavily above and beyond FAA requirements on both personnel and resources to facilitate new programs,” Pinnacle said.

Pinnacle said it would take the matter up with the FAA.

Safety regulators said Colgan violated federal rules between June 2008 and February 2009 by scheduling two captains, two co-pilots and six flight attendants for a seventh consecutive day of work.

FAA rules required crew members be allowed at least 24 consecutive hours off duty over a seven-day period.

One of the captains manned four flights without the mandatory break period and the others worked one flight each without meeting the requirement, the FAA said. Another co-pilot flew too many hours between rest periods in 2008, FAA said.

Colgan Flight 3407 crashed into a house while preparing to land in Buffalo on Feb. 12, 2009, killing all 49 on the plane and one person on the ground. Colgan was flying the route under a codeshare agreement with Continental Airlines, which is now owned by United.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded that the two pilots did not properly manage an unexpected problem that led to a stall.

Investigators also said the crew members had not received adequate rest before the flight and were probably tired, although that was not cited as contributing to the crash.

The accident raised new awareness of crew scheduling, rest and training at airlines, especially for those at the controls of commuter or feeder carriers like Colgan.

Pilots at those companies in many cases have less experience than their mainline counterparts and make less money, and some commute long distances to their jobs.

The FAA, under orders from Congress, imposed requirements last year that airlines provide more opportunity for pilots to rest between shifts. Those rules take effect in December 2013.

Topics New York Aviation Aerospace

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