Pinnacle’s Colgan Air Faces $1.89 Million Penalty From FAA

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is seeking to fine Pinnacle Airlines Corp.’s Colgan Air $1.89 million for allegedly allowing flight attendants to work before they were trained to use the planes’ fire extinguishers.

Colgan assigned 84 newly hired flight attendants to 172 flights after an inspector notified the carrier that they had not completed required training, the Washington-based agency said in a statement today.

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

The violations occurred Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, 2009, the FAA said. Nine months earlier, a Bombardier Q400 twin turboprop plane flown by Colgan crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people. While the captain’s maneuvers were the main cause of the accident, the carrier’s “inadequate” procedures and management contributed, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found.

In November, the attendants were assigned to work on the Q400. They had been trained to operate extinguishers on the Saab 340, another turboprop model.

Extinguishers ‘Operate Differently’

The extinguishers on the Bombardier aircraft “operate differently” than those on the Saab, the FAA said. The agency determined on Nov. 2, 2009, that the attendants lacked training.

The fire extinguishers in the two aircraft were the same, except one model had a hose and the other didn’t, Colgan said in a statement. The airline has also updated its training manuals.

“Safety is a top priority at Colgan,” the carrier said in the statement. “We intend to cooperate with the FAA and will respond to the allegations per their process.”

The carrier has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s allegations. Airlines can challenge the charges or try to negotiate a lower penalty.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Levin in Washington at alevin24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net