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Trial Date Set in Airline Maintenance Scheme

September 12, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal judge on Wednesday set a trial date for early next year for Eastern Airlines and eight former managers accused of routinely ignoring vital aircraft repairs and falsifying safety records.

Eastern and nine company officials - including Edward Upton, a former vice president of maintenance and engineering at the airline’s Miami headquarters and Thomas Lewis, maintenance director for Eastern’s Northern region airports - were indicted in July for their alleged roles in the scheme.

U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser of Brooklyn told the defendants and their lawyers to be ready for trial on Jan. 28.

Several days after the 60-count indictment was unsealed, a former Eastern foreman at Kennedy Airport, Elia Dragone, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstructing a federal investigation into the airline.

He said the fraud was orchestrated by his superiors and agreed to be a witness for the prosecution.

The criminal indictment of Eastern was unprecedented in the airline industry and came as the troubled airline struggled to regain passengers, rebuild service and reorganize in bankruptcy court after a bitter labor struggle.

The indictment accused the airline and managers of pressuring and intimidating employees to ″keep the aircraft in flight at all costs.″

Eastern has said it has ″taken full corrective action″ and maintains that its airliners are safe.