National/World

United temporarily grounds 96 aircraft

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Flight schedule shows United flights delayed 96 United Airlines aircraft have been temporarily grounded while the carrier performs maintenance checks.

All of United 757s are being pulled out of service, causing delays at San Francisco International Airport. United is temporarily grounding the planes to complete a check on their computer systems, but that takes time, up to an hour and a half.

United's entire 757 fleet -- that's 96 planes -- were grounded, starting around 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. At SFO, there were two flights that were held at the gate during the 4 p.m. hour; one was supposed to have left for San Diego and the other for Seattle. So far flights to Denver, Hawaii, and New York have also been delayed.

This is all because United personnel realized that an FAA directive from 2004 was never checked and signed off on. Six-and-a-half years ago, the FAA told United to install new software so the flight crew would have correct information when it came to the plane's speed and warning system. An apparent glitch in the system made an alarm go off at times, which distracted the crew and could cause them to take unnecessary and possibly dangerous action. United claims the work was done and the system was fully functioning, it just hadn't been checked by the correct officials.

"If they fail to properly do these maintenance checks in a timely manner as provided under the airworthiness directive United could be fined $26,000 for every flight that 757 takes and the 96 planes they're talking about is one quarter of United's fleet," said ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson. "The data systems serve to feed information about air speed, altitude, all the data that is fed into auto pilot."

"They should give everyone a free flight somewhere," said Joan Hobart, a delayed passenger.

"From then on, we've had nothing but problems trying to get re-booked. They would not take our baggage off the plane even though they had time, they didn't do that for a lot of people," said Becky Sarabia, a delayed United passenger.

Stranded passengers were of course, feeling caught in the middle. They're wondering why the FAA didn't check the system years ago. United is trying to get other carriers to help and honor their tickets. The delays are supposed to continue into Wednesday. As for when United will catch up and have all flights back on time -- that could take until sometime Thursday.

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united airlines, airline industry, san francisco international airport, national/world, lisa amin gulezian
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