The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned Envoy Air, the largest regional carrier operating on behalf of American Airlines, after pilot error nearly resulted in a “catastrophic” situation and several other questionable incidents.
Envoy Air Safety Lapses Question The Safety Of Regional Jets In Untied States
Envoy Air is owned by American Airlines and operates a fleet of 185 American Eagle-branded aircraft to 150 destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. With over 1,000 flights per day, it connects hubs like Chicago, Dallas, and Miami to smaller cities that cannot support mainline service.
Between 2019 and 2020, nine safety incidents took place, each of which were investigated by the FAA. The report included a scathing letter from to Envoy Air CEO Pedro Fábregas, which was obtained by CNN.
The report details safety lapses including failing to perform pre-flight checklists and slippery landings that should have been avoided by experienced pilots. It lists failed proficiency checks in which pilots “truly lacked knowledge concerning what is acceptable.” Scariest of all, though, was when an Envoy Air flight nearly landed at the wrong runway at a regional airport that was too short to accommodate the aircraft (the pilot noticed at the last moment and aborted landing). The FAA noted:
These events are representative of the more serious operational events that evidence poor airmanship trends, among other issues. Collectively, these narratives point to issues that are deeper than what spot training or counseling have been able to resolve.
All of this brings back memories of the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, an unnecessary crash that killed 50 people and led to reforms at regional airlines including increasing the number of hours required before pilots could transport passengers.
Pilot “rustiness” is a concern. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told CNN:
“Covid has introduced a whole new set of risks. We need to be a little bit circumspect and understand that there’s been a lot of turnover…and so we need to be extra vigilant as the system ramps up.”
Remarking on the report, an Envoy Air spokesperson said, “Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees. If issues are raised — either internally by our team or by the FAA — we work to address them immediately.”
This is one of the most sobering reports I have reviewed concerning airline safety in America in several years. While this will not stop me from stepping on a regional jet (it is still a risk, though elevated, I am willing to take), it is not unreasonable to imagine what is true at Envoy Air is also true at other regional carriers. As airlines approach full pre-pandemic capacity on domestic flights, airlines must ensure their pilots are competent and prepared. There is no room for error. For lives depend upon it…
Will you have second thoughts before stepping onto a regional jet?
image: Aaron Davis