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September 15, 2011

FAA Proposes $1.9 Million Fine Against Colgan Air Over Improper Cabin Crew Fire Training

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Colgan Air has been assessed $1,892,000 in penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration for operating flights staffed by flight attendants who were not properly trained in the operation of the planes’ cabin fire extinguisher system.

A Colgan Air Saab 340B N362PX operating for US Airways Express at LaGuardia Airport.

A Colgan Air Saab 340B (N362PX) operating for US Airways Express at LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by Matt Molnar)

Memphis-based Colgan, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines, operates regional flights on behalf of US Airways Express and United Express. According to airfleets.net, the Colgan fleet consists of 30 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and 29 Saab 340B turboprops.

The FAA alleges Colgan trained 84 newly hired flight attendants using only the fire extinguishers of the Saab 340 planes. Those flight attendants were then assigned to work on 172 Q400 flights in November 2009 without being trained on the specific use of the Q400’s extinguisher system, which operates differently.

“The airlines have to properly train crewmembers on the use of emergency equipment,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt in a statement. “The flight attendants’ primary responsibility is to know exactly how to handle emergency situations, and they can’t carry out that responsibility if they’re not properly trained.”

Colgan’s safety record has come under scrutiny after two fatal accidents in less than six years. Pilot error was blamed for the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which killed 50 people when the Q400 plunged into a house on approach to Buffalo International Airport. Maintenance error combined with pilot complacency resulted in the crash of a Colgan ferry flight in 2003, which killed both pilots.

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