By late Saturday, the FAA had given all of American's MD-80s clearance to fly and the airline has returned to its regular schedule. American's CEO Gerard Arpey "profoundly apologized" to travelers for the inconvenience. But he didn't have much to say about the FAA. At a press conference Thursday, Mr. Arpey simply said that American was "not successful" in its request for more time to address the technical issues, despite the fact that extra time was something that "often happened in the past."
Did FAA overreact?
The FAA decision not to give American more time to come into compliance has led some aviation analysts to suggest that the agency overreacted as a result of political pressure stemming from the recent revelations in Congress. In hearings at the Transportation Committee, frontline FAA inspectors testified they were ignored by superiors, and some were even threatened, when they raised safety issues at Southwest Airlines.
"The FAA didn't need to ground all of those planes, they could have done it on a rotating basis," says Richard Gritta, an aviation economist at the University of Portland. "But they've been asleep at the switch – in bed with the industry, now they're trying to prove they're really a tiger with teeth and I don't buy it."