American Airlines Grounding of PSA Fleet Shows the System Works

Technicians discovered possible corrosion in nuts and bolts on landing gear doors.

PSA’s fleet is comprised of Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900 aircraft.Courtesy PSA

Though hundreds of American Airlines passengers were inconvenienced last week when American Airlines subsidiary PSA Airlines grounded its fleet of Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900s –because of worries about potential mechanical issues—the efforts should not go unnoticed in an era of anxiety about aircraft safety. The grounding affected some 230 PSA flights system wide, with most of the cancellations occurring at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (KCLT).

The flights were grounded out of an abundance of caution, the result of “a maintenance item that required immediate attention,” according to a story in the Charlotte Observer. The items in question turned out to be possibly corroded nuts and bolts on the nose landing-gear doors of the airline’s jets. While this issue with a nose landing-gear door is not as serious as some other related maintenance items could have been, the aircraft grounding stands out because the airline self-reported the problem to the FAA before any agency inspectors discovered it on their own. The element of self-reporting is a reminder of how the system was intended to work when the airlines police themselves. If the FAA had discovered the airline was aware of the situation but had attempted to cover it up, PSA could have been in line for many millions of dollars in punitive fines, not to mention the potential risks of an accident with one or more of its aircraft.

The Observer said PSA’s parent organization, American Airlines, responded that, “We are working with PSA and the FAA to immediately address the issue.” It is quite likely that PSA will not incur any fines from the FAA, based on discovering and reporting the mechanical problem as quickly as airline officials did.