Discount airline Pro Air is grounded by FAA

Agency inspection finds its 3 jets `unairworthy'

Air travel

September 20, 2000|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Pro Air Inc., a discount airline that operates daily round-trip flights between BWI and Detroit City Airport, yesterday after concluding the airline "lacks the ability to conduct its operations in compliance with [FAA] regulations."

In issuing an emergency revocation order of the airline's operating certificate, the FAA said Pro Air failed to correct a number of problems after it conducted an inspection of the carrier in June. The FAA faulted Pro Air's maintenance, record-keeping and oversight systems, and said the carrier operated "unairworthy aircraft."

Pro Air's vice president of marketing, Eric Steinwinder, said of the latter charge, "That's absolutely incorrect. We would not operate an unairworthy aircraft."

Steinwinder said the FAA had conducted an initial inspection in January and an on-site inspection in June of Pro Air's facilities at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at Detroit; New York; Seattle; Chicago; Orlando, Fla.; and Atlanta.

"It's been very confusing and frustrating to us in dealing with the FAA throughout this entire process," Steinwinder said. "After the January inspection, we repeatedly requested them for information to address their areas of concern so that we could correct them. We never received a reply."

Three-year-old Pro Air Inc., which has its headquarters in Seattle but uses Detroit as its hub, said it will appeal the FAA action. The company halted its flights at 12:01 a.m. yesterday to comply with the FAA suspension.

The FAA declined to comment beyond its statement issued late Monday.

The FAA grounding order comes at a difficult time for Pro Air, which reported a $9.9 million loss in the second quarter, halted flights to four destination cities, and pared its staff down 90 employees to 350 in May. Its fleet of aircraft consists of three Boeing 737-400s, each between three and four years old, Steinwinder said.

At BWI, Pro Air operated two daily nonstop flights to Detroit and leased operating space, ticket counter and baggage claim facilities, said BWI spokesman John White. "Obviously we hope they get things straightened out ... we never want anything bad to happen to our carriers," White said. The last Pro Air flight departed BWI Monday at 7:30 p.m.

For Pro Air customers left holding valid tickets, Pro Air said Northwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines will honor "confirmed revenue," or paid-for, tickets on a standby basis. Northwest will accept Pro Air tickets until further notice, and Spirit until Sept. 30.

Northwest has eight flights between BWI and metropolitan Detroit's Wayne County Airport; Spirit does not fly out of BWI.

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