JetBlue to Sideline Embraer 190s

JetBlue Airways Corp., still smarting from its poor performance at Kennedy Airport after a Valentine's Day ice and snow storm, said yesterday it will begin briefly sidelining its new 100-seat Embraer jets to fix software problems.

Todd Burke, a spokesman for Forest Hills-based JetBlue, said the software problems do not interfere with the safe operation of the Brazilian-built E-190s, short-to-medium-haul passenger jets.

JetBlue has 25 E-190s and others on order. Burke said the software fixes will be made beginning this week and continue into April.

No flight cancellations or delays are anticipated, Burke said. Replacement planes will be used while the E-190s are being repaired.

The software problems will be fixed at a JetBlue maintenance facility in Nashville when each E-190 comes in for routine maintenance work. JetBlue has contracted with ExpressJet Holdings Inc. for four 50-seat aircraft to replace the E-190s as they are fixed two at a time, Burke said.

"We have seen a pattern of software issues with the plane, and we're taking proactive steps" to deal with the matter, Burke said. "We're trying to get ahead of this."

Burke said each plane will be worked on at Nashville for 24 to 48 hours and then resume flying. Burke declined to discuss the nature of the software problems, but Bloomberg News reported that the difficulties involve some incorrect instrument readings.

JetBlue had ordered 100 Embraer aircraft to complement its fleet of 99 Airbus planes. Burke said future deliveries of Embraers will come with the software modifications.

After the Valentine's Day snow and ice storm, JetBlue canceled 1,102 flights, stranding thousands at Kennedy, some on grounded planes for as long as 10 hours. The airline repeatedly apologized for the episode and has offered vouchers to affected passengers.

It has also adopted a customer bill of rights to help make sure nothing like the Valentine's Day meltdown occurs again.

JetBlue stock closed at $11.80, up 22 cents from yesterday.

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