Airline CEO says safety changes are underway

BETHEL — The head of the company that owns much of Alaska’s commuter airplane fleet says a critical federal report does not reflect safety changes the company has made.

The National Transportation Safety Board last month in an “urgent safety recommendation” said the Federal Aviation Administration should review businesses operating under HoTH Inc. for regulatory compliance and operational safety. HoTH is the parent company of Hageland Aviation, Frontier Flying Service and Era Aviation doing business as Ravn Alaska, Ravn Connect and Corvus Airlines.

The NTSB said it acted after two fatal crashes and five other accidents or incidents.

Bob Hajdukovich, president and chief executive officer of Ravn, said the report is a step behind company efforts, KYUK-radio reported.

“Everything that is requested for in the letter has already happened or is in the process of happening, so really, what was the purpose of the letter?” Hajdukovich said.

An inadequate risk assessment program may have played a role in the crash that killed four people outside Saint Marys in November, according to the NTSB. Deciding whether it’s safe to fly since January has been made in tandem with a central control center in Palmer, Hajdukovich said, rather than regional hubs.

“I think when you have a local control there is the potential for making more of an economic risk assessment as opposed to a pure risk assessment,” he said. “So in other words, that person on the ground in Bethel can be impacted by 300 people in the lobby, 20,000 pounds of mail, or bad weather. So there’s always a tension that’s there that you don’t want to be there when you’re truly trying to analyze the risk of the flight.”

Era Aviation, now named Corvus Airline, carries flights with 10 or more passengers and has spent millions on improvements, he said. Hageland is seeking a five-star rating in the Medallion Foundation safety program, which exceeds FAA regulations, he said, and safety is the top priority.

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