Before 3407, FAA Threatened Colgan Air with Disciplinary Action

June 3, 2013 Updated Jun 3, 2013 at 11:33 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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June 3, 2013 Updated Jun 3, 2013 at 11:33 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - Ever since news broke that pilot error brought down Flight 3407 more than four years ago, questions have been swirling about Colgan Air's safety regulations.

Now, it seems the FAA had questions about the airline too -- even before the crash that left 51 dead.

Statements released by the FAA show the airline was warned of some of its procedures, months before the crash of Flight 3407.

Those statements from the FAA stop short of citing safety concerns with Colgan Air, instead referring to maintenance issues.

However, the follow-up included changes and safety training for Colgan Air employees, the summer before Flight 3407 crashed into a Clarence Center neighborhood.

A statement from the FAA said its officials "met with Colgan executives in the summer of 2008, when the airline was expanding its fleet, to discuss recurring maintenance issues identified through FAA surveillance data."

The FAA officials reviewed open civil penalty cases, which look into the issue of fines for non-compliance. The FAA even thought about suspending or revoking the airline's certification for commercial flights.

In response, Colgan started seminars to discuss airline safety with virtually every employee. It also added more employees, reduced pilot flying time and made maintenance improvements.

According to the FAA, "over a period of several months, constant FAA monitoring of risk indicators showed improvements."

However, Karen Eckert and Susan Bourque, whose sister Beverly Eckert died in the crash, says the FAA did not go far enough.

The FAA cites "human error" as the cause of the crash. However, Eckert and Bourque say it comes down to a lack of concern for safety at Colgan Air.

"This really was a situation that was ripe for a catastrophe," says Bourque.

"Sickening to know that -- and then Colgan went on," says Eckert. "We all know what happened February 12, 2009."

The FAA says it continued to monitor Colgan Air. Family members believe the small regional airline met the minimum FAA requirements -- but that wasn't enough.

FULL FAA STATEMENTS TO EYEWITNESS NEWS ...

FAA STATEMENT 1:

As a result of FAA oversight, Colgan Airlines implemented many safety changes prior to the accident, including adding more employees, enhancing safety training for all employees, reducing pilot flying time by reducing ferry flights, and making maintenance improvements.

Over a period of several months, constant FAA monitoring of risk indicators showed improvements.

The Colgan accident was the tragic and unfortunate result of a series of human errors. With the help of the Colgan families, the FAA has made significant progress across the industry in reducing pilot fatigue, and improving pilot training and qualifications to reduce or eliminate the types of errors that caused the accident.

FAA STATEMENT 2:

FAA officials met with Colgan executives in the summer of 2008, when the airline was expanding its fleet, to discuss recurring maintenance issues identified through FAA surveillance data. The FAA officials reviewed open civil penalty cases and raised the possibility of certificate action. Colgan proposed a safety standdown, which the FAA supported. Subsequent to the meeting, Colgan added staff to operations and maintenance and FAA data confirmed improvements. The airline's ferry flights complied with regulations, but the FAA worked with Colgan to develop better procedures for those operations.