ATLANTA – Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a unit of SkyWest Inc. and one of nine regional carriers for Delta Air Lines Inc., said Wednesday it has grounded 60 of its 112 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 jets after an internal audit raised safety concerns.
The groundings, which represent nearly 40 percent of ASA’s total fleet, were expected to cause some flight delays for passengers flying ASA. It could take 36 to 42 hours to complete the inspections, company spokeswoman Kate Modolo said.
The paperwork audit raised questions about whether the engines on Bombardier CRJ200 jets had been properly inspected according to the guidelines provided by the engines’ manufacturer, Modolo said.
The company reported the problem itself to the Federal Aviation Administration and grounded the planes so they could re-inspected as a precautionary measure, she said.
Some of the planes were being inspected at the airline’s hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest. Others were scattered around ASA’s other maintenance facilities.
According to its Web site, Atlanta-based ASA also has 38 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700 jets and two 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900 jets.
Delta sold ASA to St. George, Utah-based SkyWest in 2005 for $425 million in cash. ASA remains a regional carrier for Delta, the world’s biggest airline operator. ASA doesn’t fly for any other major carrier. Delta owns Northwest Airlines and three of the other eight regional carriers it uses to provide connecting service to its customers.
A Delta spokeswoman, Betsy Talton, couldn’t say how many Delta passengers and flights would be affected by the ASA groundings. She said Delta was working to accomodate affected passengers and to cover as many ASA flights as possible with other regional carriers or Delta mainline planes.
ASA serves about 110 markets and flies 152 planes.
The number of flights affected and the length of any delays weren’t immediately known.
After the announcement by ASA, Standard & Poor’s reiterated its sell opinion on shares of parent SkyWest.
“SkyWest was already facing capacity reductions, decreased utilization and rising maintenance costs,” S&P’s Jim Corridore said. “This grounding will exacerbate all of those issues, in our view. We think additional capacity cuts by SkyWest’s airline partners are possible, and some of these cuts would likely be to regional jets.”
SkyWest shares fell 6 cents to $12.38 in morning trading Wednesday.