June 14, 2007

Cape Air, Nantucket Airlines halt flights, cite engine concerns

Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines, sister carriers that fly between Boston and Cape Cod and the islands, are canceling all flights today through tomorrow afternoon while mechanics attempt to determine the cause of three recent engine failures.

The shutdown is expected to affect 2,000 to 3,000 people who are scheduled to fly today from Boston, Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, New Bedford, Providence, and Provincetown, Cape Air president Dan Wolf said last night.

Wolf said he hopes to have the airlines' 49-plane fleet of Cessna 402 twin-engine propeller planes fully up and running again by Sunday or Monday, but can't be sure the planes will be determined to be safe to fly by then. Airline officials were working last night to find backup arrangements, including bus and ferry tickets, for passengers whose flights are being canceled.

The decision to shut down the airlines was made after two engine failures over Memorial Day weekend, when planes had to land at their destinations using one of their two engines after one malfunctioned, and a third incident -- apparently unrelated -- yesterday affecting a flight to Logan International Airport from Nantucket. All flights landed safely, and no one was injured. The planes normally carry one pilot and nine passengers.

Wolf said mechanics have found what he called "an abnormally fast wear pattern" in engines of the Cessna 402s the airlines fly, relating to the counterweight on the crankshafts of the piston-powered airplanes. "There isn't a definite smoking gun" to explain what has gone wrong, said Wolf, who also works as a pilot for Cape Air on busy summer weekends.

"This airline has always been about safety," Wolf said, and has operated for 18 years without an accident. "We want to remove any element of uncertainty. We will be able to nail this down better as we work through the fleet."

Wolf said the airlines notified the Federal Aviation Administration about the plan to shut down for at least a day while all planes are inspected. Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines will begin restoring service as planes are determined to be safe to fly.

Logan spokesman Phil Orlandella said last night, "We obviously regret the inconvenience that this shutdown will cause for passengers at Logan and other airports, but Cape Air is doing exactly the right thing to err on the side of operating as safely as they possibly can."

Read the rest of this article's from the source at: www.boston.com

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