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AMR Arrivals Slow Again as FAA Tells Pilots of Oversight

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Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- American Airlines’ flight slowdown reached the two-week mark with fresh delays today even as U.S. regulators reminded pilots of the stepped-up surveillance under way at the bankrupt carrier.

A Federal Aviation Administration official commented on the surveillance in a response to an e-mailed question from an American pilot. With 920 flights tracked, the on-time rate was 63 percent as of 4:30 p.m. New York time, according to industry researcher FlightStats.com.

The carrier, a unit of AMR Corp., threatened yesterday to take legal action against the Allied Pilots Association if the slowdown didn’t stop. American’s on-time performance began sliding on Sept. 14 after the airline imposed concessions on pilots to help it restructure under court protection. On-time arrivals dropped as low as 37 percent on Sept. 17, according to FlightStats, raising concern that passengers would shift to other airlines.

The FAA surveillance covers “all regulatory requirements which are expected to be followed by the airline, as well as the maintenance and pilot groups,” Skip Whitrock, who manages the AMR certificate management office for the FAA, said in the e-mail, which was shared with other pilots yesterday and confirmed by the FAA.

Maintenance Reports

The oversight, which occurs for any bankrupt airline, includes watching for frivolous maintenance reports, misuse of a minimum equipment list that must be completed before each flight, lack of adequate maintenance, deliberate delays and other areas, Whitrock said.

American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, had a 50 percent on-time arrival rate yesterday, compared with 90 percent for Delta Air Lines Inc., 85 percent for Southwest Airlines Co. and 77 percent for United Continental Holdings Inc., according to FlightStats data.

American threatened legal action against APA absent “an immediate, measurable improvement in our operations” because the slowdown is hurting it financially and alienating travelers, according to a Sept. 26 letter sent to the pilots’ union by Denise Lynn, the airline’s senior vice president for people.

While the union has denied organizing or supporting any slowdown, APA President Keith Wilson told members late yesterday to stop immediately if they are doing anything to slow operations without good reason.

‘Mechanical Discrepancies’

Today, Wilson said in a statement that pilots are required to list “all known mechanical discrepancies” in an airplane’s logbook for corrective action and that failure to do so could result in a pilot’s license being revoked or a safety risk.

American Airlines pilots have encountered “a large number of serious maintenance-related issues” such as a broken pilot oxygen mask, a hydraulic leak in landing gear and fuel tank seepage, he said in the statement.

Wilson yesterday described Lynn’s letter as “nothing short of a sucker punch” because it was received after union leaders had agreed to resume talks with American on a new labor agreement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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