U.S. blames airline, FAA for deadly Florida crash

WASHINGTON Wed May 30, 2007 5:39pm EDT

Investigators inspect the recovered wreckage of a Chalk's seaplane in Miami December 21, 2005. U.S. investigators blamed faulty maintenance and lax federal oversight for the seaplane crash in Florida in 2005 that killed 20 passengers and crew. REUTERS/Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/Pool

Investigators inspect the recovered wreckage of a Chalk's seaplane in Miami December 21, 2005. U.S. investigators blamed faulty maintenance and lax federal oversight for the seaplane crash in Florida in 2005 that killed 20 passengers and crew.

Credit: Reuters/Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. investigators blamed faulty maintenance and lax federal oversight for a seaplane crash in Florida in 2005 that killed 20 passengers and crew.

The National Transportation Safety Board asserted Chalk Ocean Airways failed to identify and properly repair fatigue cracks on the 1947 Grumman Turbo Mallard.

The plane lost its right wing on takeoff for the Bahamas and plunged into the shipping channel adjacent to the Port of Miami on December 19, 2005.

The safety board, in its final report on Wednesday on the probable cause of the crash, noted numerous maintenance-related problems on the plane and another company aircraft, raising questions about Chalk Ocean's maintenance practices.

"The signs of structural problems were there but not addressed," safety board chairman Mark Rosenker said.

The safety board also said the Federal Aviation Administration failed to detect and correct the airline's maintenance shortfalls. Regulations exempt older seaplanes from rigorous structural oversight.

Chalk Ocean had no comment on the safety board's findings.

The FAA said it had no indication Chalk Ocean's maintenance program was in question.

"The regulations are crystal clear that the carrier has primary responsibility for the airworthiness of (its) fleet and that includes making appropriate structural repairs," the agency said in a statement.

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