UNITED STATES - AIRCRAFT

American Airlines cancels nearly 600 new flights

2 min

In one week, American Airlines cancelled more than 3,000 flights, with nearly 600 cancellations in one day. A lack of safety inspections on American Airlines aircraft caused the disruption.

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American Airlines cancelled another 595 flights Friday, bringing the week's total to 3,079 amid a safety inspection crackdown.

Safety inspections have also grounded hundreds of United, Southwest, Delta, Alaska and Midwest Airlines flights in the wake of a scandal over skipped aircraft inspections.

The cancellations came as lawmakers grilled federal safety administrators over what whistle-blowers have called the "cozy relationship" between safety regulators and the airlines.

"The FAA is an agency spiraling downward and, I think, approaching the losing of the confidence of the American people," Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the senate's aviation subcommittee, said Thursday.

Last week, Federal Aviation Administration whistle-blowers denounced conduct by higher-ranking officials that permitted Southwest Airlines to skip aircraft inspections, allowing some to fly with cracks in their fuselages.

Southwest was fined 10.2 million dollars for flying dozens of planes without undergoing fuselage inspections, and the FAA subsequently conducted an audit of all domestic airlines' maintenance paperwork.

The FAA's associate administrator for safety apologized Thursday for the failure to police Southwest but told the subcommittee that there was no evidence of widespread problems.

In prepared testimony, Nicholas Sabatini said that while FAA's oversight model has fostered the safest period in aviation history, the agency recognized that its airworthiness directives are subject to too much interpretation.

"What we learned here is there are technical interpretations, but you've got to be fully compliant," he said. "You can't just be a little compliant. That is basically what you are seeing with carriers that cancel flights."

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