Monday, 30 August 2010

FAA Fines American Airlines Record $24 Million for Unsafe Flights

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration told American Airlines it means business by imposing a penalty of $24.2 million on the carrier for making thousands of unsafe flights. It is the largest fine in US aviation history, and American Airlines has already opposed it. The airline has confirmed that it will fight the penalty, and the company has a 30-day period in which to do so.

The fine comes as part of the FAA's efforts to get tough on airlines that ignore maintenance issues. Much of the criticisms that California plane crash lawyers have levied against the FAA have involved the agency's failure to crack down harder on erring airlines. The penalty follows American Airlines’ alleged failure to comply with an agency order called an Airworthiness Directive. This particular order was issued back in 2006, and required all airlines to conduct an inspection of some wire bundles in the wheel wells of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 planes. According to the directive, the wires could chafe, and this could spark a fire or trigger an explosion because of the wires’ proximity to the fuel tanks.

The airworthiness directive set a deadline of 2008 for compliance. Soon after the deadline, the FAA found that American Airlines had failed to comply with the directive. Violations were found in at least 10 MD 80 planes during inspections conducted at the airline's maintenance center in Tulsa and at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. In April 2008, FAA ordered American Airlines to ground its entire MD 80 fleet. About 300 planes were affected, and more than 3,000 American flights were grounded.

American Airlines disputes the agency's findings. The company says it has taken steps to ensure that its fleet of MD-80 planes meets all federal technical specifications.

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