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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Feds to review complaint involving Hawai'i flights

Bloomberg News Service

WASHINGTON — A U.S. inspector agreed to review a pilot union official's claim that aviation regulators in Fort Worth, Texas, were lax in overseeing AMR Corp.'s American Airlines. The complaint involves flights between Dallas and Honolulu.

The regional Federal Aviation Administration officials ignored union complaints, conducted biased investigations and failed to tell FAA Washington officials of rule violations, said Rich Rubin of the Allied Pilots Association.

FAA officials in Fort Worth also joined American in trying to reverse an FAA Washington official's interpretation of pilot duty time requirements, Rubin said.

"Obviously they did not perform their role to provide oversight over American," he said.

Kenneth Mead, the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general, is "taking an initial look" at the complaints, said spokesman David Barnes.

"We're taking a sniff to see if there's anything to it," he said.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said she had not yet been briefed on Mead's plans so she could not yet comment, though she said the FAA would cooperate fully.

John Hotard, a spokesman for Fort Worth-based American, said airline officials "welcome" the Mead review.

Rubin, who chairs Allied pilots' flight time/duty time committee, detailed his allegations in a 14-page letter to Mead and met with officials in Mead's office.

Rubin said he sought Mead's help in part because the union official was unhappy with an Aug. 1 decision by the FAA's Fort Worth office. Thomas Stuckey, the flight standards division manager in the office, found that American worked within safety rules by using two pilots instead of three on June flights between Dallas and Honolulu.

Rubin had filed a complaint July 2 that the absence of a reserve pilot, who could give the other two pilots rest breaks, compromised safety.

One captain reported that a Fort Worth FAA inspector observed him nodding off in the cockpit on a Dallas-to-Honolulu flight, Rubin said. The captain observed the inspector nodding off on the same flight, he said.