FAA Steps Up Oversight Of United Airlines, Citing Violations Of Pilot Qualifications & Scheduling Issues

The Federal Aviation Administration has been fixing its baleful stare on United Airlines for the last two months, after writing in a letter to the airline pointing out potential risks due to alleged repeated violations of mandatory pilot qualification and scheduling requirements.

According to the letter viewed by the Wall Street Journal sent from a higher-up at the FAA to United’s top safety officer in February, United needs to step up its process for qualifying crew members and be better at how it handles pilot records.

Though there are no specific violations cited, it could mean things like pilots not going through the required periodic check rides with examiners watching in a certain time, or United not having all the records showing such checks happened.

Scheduling is also an issue FAA has with United right now, perhaps meaning pilots are flying for longer times than the FAA says is okay.

This kind of letter is rare because United had reported each problem itself, which is how things usually work with the FAA. Then, carriers voluntarily fix the safety problems they’ve mentioned, avoiding enforcement actions.

But the FAA says the 12 voluntary reports of apparent violations over the last 13 months stemming “from the same or similar set of circumstances” indicate a “systemic” hazard, requiring United to conduct “a complete review of your processes associated with crew member qualification” and develop an “action plan…to mitigate this hazard.”

United says it gave the FAA “a full outline of our corrective actions” on March 25, calling the situation “resolved.”

The FAA says its evaluating the response from United, without offering details.

Meanwhile, several pilots who spoke to the WSJ characterized the February letter as “serious,” with one calling it a “wake-up call” for United.

“The company may be saying this is no big deal, but it’s serious,” said one of the pilots.

FAA Calls Out ‘Systemic’ Hazard at United [Wall Street Journal]