FAA Proposes near $2 Million Fine Against Colgan Air

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just announced that it is proposing a $1,892,000 fine against Colgan Air for allegedly not providing proper training for then-newly hired flight attendants in the use of some cabin fire extinguishers.

To put this in some perspective, the FAA notes that this alleged lapse occurred during just a few days in Nov. of 2009.

Major Airlines in Partnerships with Colgan Air

Memphis-based Colgan Air, which is a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines, is one of many regional carriers with codeshare agreements with major airlines. For example, Colgan is a codeshare partner with three legacy carriers, operating as Continental Connection, United Express and US Airways Express in the eastern U.S. and Canada, as well as Texas and Louisiana.

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With a fine this large, it appears to me that the FAA is reminding the aviation industry that there’s a new sheriff in town.¬† In its news release, the¬†agency alleges that during a six day period in 2009, Colgan flight attendants were not properly trained to use the fire extinguishers that are carried aboard the airline’s Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 twin turbo-prop aircraft, which operate differently than those used onboard the Colgan’s other planes.

As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, “FAA rules on flight crew training are designed to help ensure the safety of passengers. We require carriers to comply with all of our safety rules, and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action when they do not.”

Colgan Crash of 2009

In Februrary 2009, a Colgan flight operating as a Continental Connection crashed into a house in suburban Buffalo, killing all 50 aboard and one on the ground. Although “pilot fatigue” was initially believed to have played a major part in the tragedy, the NTSB ultimately concluded that the chief cause of this accident was pilot error.

Colgan has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Meanwhile, phone calls and emails seeking comment on this matter, directed to Colgan’s parent Pinnacle from FareCompare, were not immediately returned. UPDATE: Colgan responded on 9-25-11 with a statement that said in part, “This proposed fine is related to flight attendant training on the use of the cabin fire extinguisher; alleging that the bottle carried in the Q400 aircraft was a different type than the one used in training. Colgan Air was using the same type extinguisher for both the Saab 340B and Q400 training, although the Q400 extinguisher has a hose. Upon notification and out of an abundance of caution, Colgan updated our training manuals and retrained all flight attendants to ensure full flight attendant understanding.”

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Published: September 16, 2011