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FAA Seeking to Punish Crew of Damaged Plane

January 31, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A People Express jet flew from Newark, N.J., to Buffalo, N.Y., last summer with part of a wing flap missing, causing severe vibrations, and then almost resumed another flight before the problem was acknowledged, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

The FAA said it would seek to revoke the air transport licenses of the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer of the Boeing 727 for flying an unairworthy plane.

A spokesman for People Express referred questions about the incident to an attorney representing the three employees. Attempts to reach the lawyer were unsuccessful.

″These are allegations on the part of the FAA ... There’s nothing proven yet,″ said People spokesman Russell Marchetta.

The wing flaps control both the elevation and descent of an aircraft and if the flaps - those on one wing as opposed to those on the other - are out of balance a plane could be difficult to control, according to air safety experts.

The lack of a flap (in one wing) causes loss of lift on that wing, so the aircraft could roll, one noted.

In another enforcement action, the FAA said it had collected a civil penalty of $30,000 from Pan American World Airways because the airline carried too many passengers on a charter flight from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to New York a year ago.

The agency said the Pan Am charter flight carried 347 passengers, 10 more than authorized, and that some passengers ″had to share seats and seatbelts in violation of FAA regulations.″

In the People Express incident last July 26, the FAA said the Boeing 727 encountered vibrations that severely shook the plane for several minutes after it took off from Newark International Airport on a flight to Buffalo.

″The flight crew ignored the vibrations″ and continued on to its scheduled destination, encountering the same vibration when landing at Buffalo, an FAA statement said.

″Still, the crew allowed passengers to board the airplane at Buffalo and commenced taxiing for departure,″ FAA spokesman Edmund Pinto said. ″The flight was halted when it was discovered that two portions of the left wing flap were missing.″

It was unclear how the two missing portions of the wing flap were discovered or when they broke off.

One source, familiar with the incident said a mechanic at the Buffalo airport noticed part of the wing flap missing as the plane taxied away from the gate to resume another flight and told someone who was in radio contact with the pilot.

But an industry source, knowledgeable about the incident, said that part of the wing flap - a one-by-nine-foot section - broke off as the plane was approaching Buffalo. He said residents near the airport saw the broken flap fall to the ground and reported it to the Buffalo control tower, which in turn held up the plane as it was preparing to take off.

The pilot then checked his aircraft, noticed part of the wing flap missing and return to the gate, said this source, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

Presumably the other section of the wing flap broke off earlier because the plane since, according to the FAA, the aircraft encountered severe vibrations shortly after departing Newark as well.

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