MGM Grand Air, the upstart, upscale Los Angeles-to-New-York airline, has grounded two of its three jets for up to a month because maintenance records on the planes are incomplete.
The planes, both Boeing 727-100s, are now in Dallas undergoing an intensive check that company officials said will be completed in about three weeks. In the meantime, MGM Grand will fly one, instead of two, daily round trips between New York and Los Angeles.
The company says the issue is paper work, not safety, but Federal Aviation Administration officials say MGM Grand could be fined up to $10,000 for each violation of regulations.
The company discovered last month that it was missing some records of scheduled maintenance, according to MGM Grand President Chuck Demoney, and reported the incomplete records to the FAA.
Declining to specify which records were missing, Demoney said Tuesday that the paper work lapse had occurred before MGM Grand bought the planes in August.
He conceded, however, that "it is the carrier's responsibility to supply the records and maintain them in their totality. We unfortunately have not been able to substantiate that the checks have been done in a timely manner. . . . We have never compromised safety and never would do so."
FAA 'Very Concerned'
The manager of the FAA's Flight Standards division in Los Angeles, Bill Williams, said he will begin a review of FAA operations to determine whether inspectors should have caught the lapse in paper work before company officials told them.
"Obviously, I am very concerned about it," Williams said. "That doesn't mean anything was wrong."
The airlines are responsible for maintaining records of maintenance checks, according to FAA, which has not filed any enforcement action against MGM Grand, according to spokeswoman Barbara Abels.
The setback is the first for the airline, which started flying Sept. 8 and quickly gained acceptance for customers seeking VIP treatment.
MGM Grand's clientele pay the same $828 for a one-way trip that passengers of the larger airlines pay for a regular first-class seat, but can board their plane from the privacy of their own terminal.
Aboard a plane fitted with 33 seats and four private compartments, in place of the usual configuration of 110 seats, attendants--one for every six seats--offer passengers gourmet menus that include caviar, champagne and steak. Inflight entertainment, which is free, includes a choice of six movies.
Demoney defended MGM Grand's record and said he expects the setback to be temporary.
"MGM has completed in excess of 99% of all scheduled service--far superior to that of other airlines," he said. "We ran 87% of our flights on time last week."