FAA Seeks $7.1 M in Penalties Against American Airlines
The Federal Aviation Administration proposed $7.1
million in fines against American Airlines for a string of violations
that include improperly deferring maintenance on safety-related equipment and violations of employee
The FAA asserts that in December 2007, American used the wrong
provisions of its Minimum Equipment List (MEL) to return two MD-83
aircraft to service after pilots had reported problems, and flew the
planes 58 times in violation of FAA regulations. The MEL contains
components and systems without which the aircraft may operate safely
under specific limitations, as proven by the operator or manufacturer.
Dec. 11 and 12, American operated the first MD-83 on eight flights
in airspace it should have been restricted from after maintenance on
part of the autopilot system was improperly deferred. An FAA inspector
discovered the improper deferral and informed the airline, however
American flew the plane on 10 more revenue flights until the problem
was fixed on Dec. 17.
In another incident, the autopilot
disconnected during a landing by the same aircraft on Dec. 21.
American technicians did not check for the actual problem, and instead
deferred maintenance using an inappropriate MEL item. The plane flew
another 36 passenger-carrying flights during Dec.21-31. Airline
maintenance later discovered the fault was in a radio altimeter – not
For the violations involving this MD-83, the FAA is proposing a $4.1 million civil penalty.
different MD-83 experienced an autopilot disconnect on Dec. 27.
Although American mechanics correctly diagnosed the problem, they again
deferred maintenance under the wrong item of the MEL. As a result, the
aircraft operated on four revenue flights without a fully functioning
autopilot. The FAA is proposing a $325,000 civil penalty in this
The FAA believes the large total amount of the fine for
these violations is appropriate because American Airlines was aware
that appropriate repairs were needed, and instead deferred maintenance.
In intentionally continuing to fly the aircraft, the carrier did not
follow important safety regulations intended to protect passengers and
Also, in May of this year the FAA proposed civil penalties
in the amount of $2.7 million in civil penalties against American for
alleged past deficiencies in its drug and alcohol testing programs and
for allegedly operating aircraft in past years without timely
inspections of emergency escape path lighting systems. The amount
included $1.7 million civil penalty for the testing program violations
and $1 million for the lighting inspection violations.