The Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday that commuter airlines flying the Brazilian-made Embraer Bandeirante airplane found only minor problems when they inspected their fleets for the flaws that are suspected in a fatal crash in Jacksonville last Thursday.
An FAA spokesman said that preliminary results of the inspections found such problems as loose rivets in 16 airplanes, but that there was no pattern of difficulties and "nothing to cause concern."
FAA Administrator Donald D. Engen ordered the inspections Sunday after an investigation into the Jacksonville accident, which killed 13 people, showed that the tail assembly of the Bandeirante had fallen off the airplane after takeoff.
The inspections caused minimal disruption to commuter schedules, said a spokesman for the Regional Airline Association, the trade group of commmuter airlines. He said the airlines expected to have virtually all the Bandeirantes back in service by last night. It is estimated that about 20 commuter airlines operate 130 Bandeirantes in U.S. service.
Engen, in an interview with United Press International yesterday, said "the commuter airline industry is indeed a safe industry" and "I wouldn't hesitate to fly it."
He told The Washington Post that his agency has enough people to "monitor commuter and air-carrier major airline safety. I feel that the FAA is able to enforce its regulations with the number of people we have out there." There had been published reports that Engen believes the FAA needs 200 to 300 more airline safety inspectors, but he said, "I absolutely deny" those stories.
He said he has asked for an internal study of the adequacy of the inspector workforce that checks business and private aircraft.
Meanwhile, National Transporation Safety Board investigators continued to check maintenance and other records in the Jacksonville accident. Parts of the crashed plane were brought to Washington for metallurgical examination.