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FAA says regional airline didn't inspect planes

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Federal aviation officials on Tuesday proposed fining regional carrier Chautauqua Airlines $348,000 for allegedly flying passengers thousands of times without performing required safety inspections of the planes.

The airline's management of its maintenance program and its system for tracking the status of compliance with safety orders led to the violations, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Among the violations cited by the FAA:

— Chautauqua flew eight Canadair Regional Jets more than 9,900 times in 2007 and 2008 before inspecting lower wings for cracks. The inspections were supposed to be performed every 5,000 flights.

— In January 2009, the airline operated a regional jet on 231 flights without inspecting a different section of the lower wings for cracks and flew another of the planes for 61 hours without a required inspection of electrical relays.

— Another regional jet made more than 17,600 flights between November 2007 and January 2009 before mandatory inspections of the plane's GE engines were performed.

— An Embraer 145 regional jet was operated for 43 days past the time one of its inertial navigation units should have been replaced.

"An air carrier's maintenance program can't function without a good system to determine compliance with (safety) directives," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a prepared statement. Problems following safety directives "are inconsistent with an airline's continued safe operation," he said.

Chautauqua is a subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings of Indianapolis. Officials for the airline didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Chautauqua has 30 days to respond to the agency.

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