FAA grounds Learjet Model 45s until repaired

Wednesday, August 13th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday ordered owners of Learjet Model 45 business jets not to fly the planes until they replace a part in the tail section that could send the plane out of control. The order affects 222 jets.

The FAA order, published in Wednesday's Federal Register, gives owners of the eight-passenger Learjet model until Saturday to fly their planes to a repair station to replace the horizontal stabilizer actuator assembly, which helps control up and down movements. The agency said the part could break, making it impossible to control the plane.

``Once you lose control of the horizontal stabilizer, you don't know where the nose of the airplane is going to end up,'' FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.

The FAA said it acted after a report about a Learjet Model 45 plane vibrating severely and then pointing downward. That plane landed safely and the FAA said no crashes have been reported. The FAA said the part in question was brittle and could break.

``During our investigation of the problem, we determined that the configuration and quality controls over the production of these parts were so deficient that we do not have confidence that the airplane can be operated safely for any period of time,'' the FAA order said.

Learjet's parent company, Bombardier Inc., of Canada has struggled along with the rest of the airline industry following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company also builds trains, and is being sued by Amtrak, alleging design flaws in the high-speed Acela Express. Amtrak is seeking more than $200 million in damages from Bombardier and Alstom Ltd. of France for ``extraordinary delays and pervasive failures.''

Last December, Robert Brown resigned as president and chief executive of Bombardier and was succeeded by Canadian National Railway President Paul Tellier.