FAA Proposes $1.45 Million Fine for Northwest Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $1.45 million civil penalty against Northwest Airlines for operating a number of its Boeing 757 aircraft without proper windshield wiring inspections.

A 1990 FAA airworthiness directive on Boeing 757s required inspections for the presence of undersized wires in the heating system for both the captain’s and first officer’s windows, and replacement if needed. Left uncorrected, the problem could cause overheating, smoking and possibly a fire, noted FAA.

Northwest wrote maintenance instructions for its mechanics in April 1990 that omitted the required inspection of the wires under the first officer’s window. As a result, 32 of the carrier’s 757s flew more than 90,000 passenger flights between Dec. 1, 2005, and May 27, 2008, while not in compliance with the airworthiness directive.

“Safety is the number one priority for the Department of Transportation,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The FAA has airworthiness directives for a reason and carriers cannot pick and choose when they want to comply.”

On May 28, 2008, Northwest discovered it had not performed the proper inspections and revised its maintenance instructions. However, the instructions did not require the work be performed before further flight, but at the next planned overnight layover. As a result, 29 of the 32 aircraft flew 42 passenger-carrying flights while they were still out of compliance with the airworthiness directive.

“When an air carrier realizes that an airworthiness directive is not being followed the problem must be corrected immediately,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Safety cannot wait for the next scheduled maintenance.”

The airline has 30 days from the receipt of FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to the agency.

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