Two More Cases Of Improper Load Reporting Uncovered
The potential fallout from an FAA
investigation into reports of overloaded American Eagle commuter
planes appears to be growing more severe. Sources tell ABC News the
airline -- the regional subsidiary of American Airlines -- may soon
be booted from a voluntary safety reporting program over evidence
the carrier flew overloaded or improperly balanced aircraft on at
least 19 occasions.
ABC broke the original story earlier this month,
as ANN reported... and it now appears there
are more cases of improper loading of American Eagle planes.
Sources say the FAA discovered crews loaded a 300-lb metal
maintenance ladder and four 50-lb. sandbags onboard an American
Eagle plane earlier this year, to serve as ballast. Such measures
aren't uncommon when dealing with lightly-loaded commuter planes,
which are particularly sensitive to improper loading and weight
distribution of passengers and baggage. In many cases, passengers
are asked to change seats, to better distribute weight throughout
But what raised eyebrows at the FAA are reports the ballast
wasn't entered into the plane's load sheet... and that the heavy
metal ladder was apparently not tied down in the hold.
"This is a serious violation of FAA regulations," former FAA
inspector Bill McNeese told ABCNews.com. "An unsecured metal object
with sharp corners bouncing around in a cargo hold could compromise
the flight characteristics of the plane."
Also disturbing is the revelation the plane's pilot was unaware
of the ladder's presence on his aircraft. He says he "had no idea"
the ballast had been added, and that he was "very upset" to
discover the staircase inside the cargo hold.
The pilot recalculated the plane's weight and balance upon
landing, and found the numbers to be within acceptable limits. He
then notified the FAA of the incident. "This was a serious safety
concern for me," he said.
Another alleged case of overloading -- involving the placement
of an unsecured metal pipe, weighing several hundred pounds,
onboard another aircraft -- is also being investigated by the
The sheer number of violations being investigated by the agency
has cast doubt on American Eagle's continued participation in the
Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). The program allows airlines
to voluntarily report violations without fear of repercussions, as
long as the problems are quickly corrected.
American Eagle had no comment to ABC about the latest
allegations, though it did say it was unaware of reports that Tom
Longridge, the FAA official in charge of ASAP, had agreed with
recommendations from two inspectors that American Eagle be removed
from the program.
"The FAA has told American Eagle that its ASAP programs are not
in jeopardy," a representative with the airline said.
As ANN reported last week, American's mainline
operation discontinued participation in ASAP, the apparent victim
of ever-present squabbling between its pilots union and airline