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America West to address FAA concerns

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PHOENIX — America West Airlines said Friday that it was taking steps to address Federal Aviation Authority concerns about its maintenance records and quality assurance programs following a recent review.

The Phoenix-based carrier said the FAA voiced its concerns "to help America West ensure the continuation of the airline's solid safety record."

The agency gave the carrier, eighth largest in the United States, seven days to document compliance with airworthiness directives on a sampling of its 132 commercial jets and 30 days to submit a plan to bolster its maintenance and surveillance programs.

America West said it had already begun upgrading its record-keeping and surveillance programs and expected to meet the FAA deadlines.

The FAA "advised America West that the airline had successfully completed all other aspects of the agency's review," according to the airline, a subsidiary of America West Holdings Corp..

"The company has completed that audit and is satisfied that all of the airworthiness directives have been complied with and are properly documented," the airline stated in a release.

The audit was inspired by a comprehensive FAA review of No. 10 U.S. carrier Alaska Airlines after a crash killing 88 people off the California coast on Jan. 31 and allegations of shoddy maintenance at the Seattle-based airline.

That review found poor record-keeping and internal communications about safety procedures at Alaska.

America West was part of the first group audited by the FAA under a plan to duplicate that review at other top U.S. carriers.

To date, the FAA has not issued any findings on Continental Airlines Inc. or United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp. , which the FAA also audited in July.

FAA spokesman Eliot Brenner said the audit did not uncover any safety of flight concerns at America West but the agency wanted "to be absolutely certain that there are no problems."

"They've got a good safety record and they made a good faith effort to work with us," he added.

America West said the FAA indicated it would provide special oversight of the airline's maintenance operations during the time necessary for the completion and implementation of these plans.

"America West intends to meet all of our regulatory obligations and will do so," America West Chairman and Chief Executive William A. Franke said.

"We have recently announced management and organizational changes to support these efforts. The FAA's requests are consistent with our own internal plans to ensure adequate infrastructure within our maintenance organization and we are confident that working with the FAA we will meet our shared objectives of improving our operating reliability and maintaining our industry-leading safety record."

America West shares closed up 1/8 at 14-7/8 on Friday, compared with a 52-week trading range of 12-1/2 to 21-3/4.