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American Airlines Under Scrutiny

June 24, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ American Airlines officials and federal investigators hope a review of the airline’s safety and training programs can shed light on why American has had more crashes than any other U.S. air carrier in the last six years.

The Fort Worth-based American has suffered two crashes since 1993 that killed a total of 171 people. Four other crashes damaged planes but caused only minor injuries, investigators said.

By contrast, United Airlines, a slightly larger carrier with a comparable schedule, has had one fatal crash this decade, according to federal records.

``We are going to be turning the place inside out, trying to find anything that will improve our performance,″ Robert Baker, American vice president for operations, told The Dallas Morning News in today’s editions.

``But if there were a magic bullet, I think we would have seen it a long time ago. We would have found glaring errors or omissions,″ Baker said.

Airline officials, along with outside consultants and experts from the Federal Aviation Administration, plan to review safety and training programs. The FAA said it plans similar evaluations for all airlines.

``We want to look at American and see what these events are telling us,″ said Margaret Gilligan, the FAA’s deputy associate administrator for regulation and certification.

The FAA said it will focus on whether American’s corporate culture and its bitter disputes with its pilots’ union are in any way affecting safety.

Aviation experts said American’s problems don’t necessarily mean the airline is more dangerous than others. When compared with the rest of the industry and number of miles flown over the last 15 years, American’s safety record remains among the best.

But American officials and outside experts agree that the string of accidents since 1993 is something the airline should worry about.

``It would be irresponsible not to step back and see whether your accident prevention program was working,″ said C.O. Miller, who headed the National Transportation Safety Board’s Bureau of Safety during much of the 1980s.

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