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April 11, 2000

Airline safe, a top official says of Spirit


POMONA, N.J. - The head of safety for Spirit Airlines defended the company yesterday after two jets had to return to Atlantic City International Airport because of mechanical problems last week.

"We're disturbed, as we always are, when we have any kind of problem. However, the crews handled them both very professionally. We're happy with that. Nobody was hurt," said Robert Moreland, vice president of safety for the carrier, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He said no passenger had ever been injured on a Spirit flight. The discount carrier, which travels to resorts in South Carolina and Florida, began flying in 1990.

On Friday, Flight 303 to Orlando, Fla., turned around within 20 minutes of its departure when passengers and crew smelled smoke. The DC-9 aircraft, with 109 people aboard, landed safely, and no fire was detected. Four hours later, the passengers boarded another Spirit plane and flew to Orlando.

A bearing problem caused Flight 303's air-recycling unit to overheat, emitting the burning smell, according to Arlene Salac, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

On Saturday, the primary engine failed as Flight 541 to Myrtle Beach, S.C., lifted off. Passengers reported hearing an explosion, and the plane, with 148 people aboard, returned to the airport on the second engine within 20 minutes. It landed without incident.

The engine problem apparently sparked a brush fire near the runway as the plane took off. The fire was extinguished, said Peter Hartt, a spokesman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport.

Salac said the FAA would look into the second incident to determine whether there was some "systemic" problem with the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217 engine.

-- - (, April 11, 2000


Consume beaucoup spirits before flying on Spirit Airlines.

-- (, April 11, 2000.

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