United Airlines is facing increased oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration following a series of safety incidents that have captured the public’s attention. 

In a 22 March memo to employees, reviewed by FlightGlobal, United’s vice-president of corporate safety Sasha Johnson said that FAA personnel will increasingly be present at the Chicago-headquartered carrier’s facilities, and that the civil aviation regulator has paused some of United’s certification activities “for a period of time”. 

”Over the next several weeks, we will begin to see more of an FAA presence in our operation as they begin to review some of our work processes, manuals and facilities,” she says. ”We welcome their engagement and are very open to hear from them about what they find and their perspective on things we may need to change to make us even safer.” 

United says it expects to know more soon about the “variety of certification activities” that will be paused by the FAA. ”Those activities will differ depending on the work group,” Johnson says. 

United Airlines 737 Max 9

Source: United Airlines

The FAA is stepping up its oversight of United Airlines’ operations following several concerning safety incidents 

United has already “stepped up” its interaction with the FAA in response to several closely timed safety mishaps in recent weeks involving diversions and emergency landings, including a United 737 Max 8 that ran off a taxiway in Houston, an Osaka-bound 777-200 that dropped a tire shortly after take-off at San Francisco International airport and a 737-800 that landed in Medford, Oregon without an external panel, among several other examples. 

The issues have not been limited to Boeing jets. A few recent incidents involving hydraulic leaks and other maintenance issues have been reported on United flights operated with Airbus A320s. 

No injuries have resulted from the mishaps, which appear to have been unrelated occurrences amid tens of thousands of flights that are safely operated on a daily basis in the USA. With the public hyper-focused on airline safety following the 5 January door plug blow-out on a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines, each incident has taken on magnified proportion. 

”Still, the number of safety-related incidents in recent weeks have caused us to pause and evaluate whether there is anything we can and should do differently,” Johnson says. “Safety is foundational to the success of the airline and we can never take it for granted.” 

United is not the only major US operator to recently experience notable maintenance-related safety incidents.

In preliminary findings released on 21 March, US investigators cited improper brake maintenance as a factor related to a 10 February runway overrun involving an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 at Dallas Fort Worth International airport.