PANEL TO BROADEN PROBE INTO TEXAS AIR, EASTERN

PANEL TO BROADEN PROBE INTO TEXAS AIR, EASTERN

A House committee ignored 11th-hour pleas from Texas Air Corp. Thursday and overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for broadened federal investigations into the company and its Eastern Airlines subsidiary.

Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., one of the resolution's authors, labeled an insult to every member of Congress Texas Air's last-minute argument that other events obviated the need for the resolution.Do they think we're so stupid, he said, to accept Texas Air's contention that everything is all right at the airline company?

With the approval of House Concurrent Resolution 262, the House Public Works and Transportation Committee thrust the third branch of the federal government into the activity surrounding Texas Air.

The other principal author of R-262, Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., and other panel members strongly denied that their effort has been dictated by labor interests.

Am I being told that this branch of government is being (cowed) by labor and goaded into this type of investigation? Rep. Mineta asked.

I don't think so!

Rep. Mineta noted that the executive and judiciary branches of the federal government have already acted on several matters related to perceived problems at Eastern and Texas Air.

DOT has acted, the courts have acted, and we are responsible for acting as the body exercising oversight in these matters, he added.

On April 13, both the DOT and the FAA announced parallel inquiries. The FAA started dual probes with a team of people conducting ramp inspections of Eastern's fleet and a high-level policy team examining Eastern's management.

At the same time, the DOT launched a preliminary fitness review of Texas Air to determine whether it is fit, willing and able to provide common-carrier airline service.

The resolution offered by Rep. Mineta and Rep. Gingrich enjoys considerable bipartisan support with more than 210 House members signed on as co-sponsors of H. Con. Res. 262.

And even though the actions of the DOT and the FAA covered many of the points contained in the resolution, members in general decided to stick with the effort.

Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, Ark., ranking Republican on the committee, said, While I had some initial reluctance to move this resolution, I am now willing to do so and view it as a statement in support for the job that DOT and FAA are doing in this area.

Texas Air officials were unavailable for comment.

Panel members are shooting to get the resolution before the full House within two weeks.