United Airlines says federal regulators will increase oversight of company: NPR

Two United Airlines Boeing 737 planes are parked at the gate of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 7, 2022.

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Two United Airlines Boeing 737 planes are parked at the gate of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 7, 2022.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

CHICAGO — Federal regulators are increasing their oversight of United Airlines, the company announced Friday, following a series of recent problems including a piece of the outer fuselage falling off one of the planes, an engine fire, and the plane losing a tire during takeoff.

The FAA will examine “multiple areas of our operations” to ensure safety compliance, said Sasha Johnson, United's vice president of corporate safety.

“Over the next few weeks, we will begin to see more of an FAA presence in our operations as they begin to review some of our work procedures, manuals, and facilities,” she said in a memo to employees. “We welcome their participation and are very open to hearing from them about what they have found and their perspective on things we might need to change to make us safer.”

Johnson said the FAA would pause certification activities, but did not provide details.

The agency said it “routinely monitors all aspects of the airline's operations” and did not describe any additional steps it was taking in the United case.

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In a statement, an agency spokesperson said FAA oversight “focuses on an airline's compliance with applicable regulations; the ability to identify hazards, assess and mitigate risks; and manage safety effectively.”

Earlier this week, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told NBC News: “We're going to look at each one of these incidents and see if we see a pattern. … Nobody likes to see this uptick in incidents.”

Whitaker said he spoke with United CEO Scott Kirby about the events.

Separately this week, Kirby tried to reassure customers that the airline was safe, saying the recent issues were unrelated.

Kirby said the airline is already planning an additional day of pilot training starting in May and changes to the training curriculum for newly hired mechanics and that it will consider additional changes.

Among the most recent cases, a piece of aluminum outer skin was discovered to have fallen from the belly of a United Boeing 737 after landing in Oregon. Earlier this month, a United plane suffered a fire while taking off from Houston, and a tire fell off another United plane as it departed from San Francisco.

Other problems included a hydraulic leak and an aircraft veering off the taxiway and getting stuck in the grass.

United is the country's second-largest airline by revenue, behind Delta Air Lines.

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