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The FAA will be reviewing United’s work processes, manuals and procedures after a string of safety incidents the carrier experienced in March.

The Federal Aviation Administration is increasing its oversight of United Airlines following a string of safety incidents. 

Sasha Johnson, United’s vice president of corporate safety, wrote in an internal memo to staff on Friday that the carrier will see an increased FAA presence in its operations, which include a review of its work processes, manuals and procedures. 

“As you’d expect, we’ve stepped up our interactions with the FAA recently and they echoed these sentiments,” Johnson wrote in the memo viewed by Skift. “They agree that we need to take an even closer look at multiple areas of our operation to ensure we are doing all we can to promote and drive safety compliance.”

Johnson said the FAA will also pause a variety of certification processes for United during this time. 

“The FAA’s safety assurance system routinely monitors all aspects of an airline’s operation,” the FAA said in a statement. “It focuses on an airline’s compliance with applicable regulations; ability to identify hazards, assess and mitigate risk; and effectively manage safety.”

It is unclear which specific certification processes for United would be on pause. In an updated statement on Saturday, the FAA said “future projects” might be delayed based on findings from the agency’s review.

Bloomberg and CBS News reported Saturday that the FAA considered barring United from launching new routes it hasn’t sold tickets for yet or pause the ability to introduce new planes into revenue service. Both outlets also reported that the FAA may not allow United to check airmen in order to certify new captains, a process that is typically done internally.

“Due to recent safety events, the FAA is increasing oversight of United Airlines to ensure that it is complying with safety regulations; identifying hazards and mitigating risk; and effectively managing safety,” the FAA said on Saturday. “Certification activities in process may be allowed to continue, but future projects may be delayed based on findings from oversight. The FAA will also initiate an evaluation of United Airlines under the provisions of the Certification Holder Evaluation Process.”

A String of Safety Incidents

United experienced multiple safety incidents during March, including one where an external panel fell off a Boeing 737-800 that landed in Medford, Oregon. A United Boeing 737-900ER departing from Houston had to make an emergency landing after an engine started emitting flames. And another flight from Houston, this time a 737 Max, slid off the runway in a separate incident. 

A Boeing 777 also lost a wheel during takeoff from San Francisco. Some of the incidents, like mechanical issues, have been typical maintenance mishaps.

In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, FAA chief Mike Whitaker said he spoke to United CEO Scott Kirby after the Medford, Oregon incident.

“We’re going to look at each one of the incidents and see if we see a pattern,” Whitaker said to NBC News’ Lester Holt. 

Kirby addressed the spate of incidents in a letter to customers on Monday, saying safety is the airline’s highest priority. He added that the carrier would take stock of its safety training, which included hosting an extra training day for pilots and a centralized training curriculum for maintenance technicians. 

“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety,” Kirby said in the message. “While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”


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Tags: air safety, Boeing 737, faa, houston, san francisco, united airlines

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