The Federal Aviation Administration hit American Eagle with a USD2.9 million fine for safety violations related to maintenance yesterday. It is the agency’s latest muscle flexing after the withering criticism heaped on it by Congress, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Transportation Inspector General in the Colgan matter. In addition, the Inspector General is now looking into American and American Eagle maintenance issues.
The fine, a new levy after the airline was fined USD2.5 million just two weeks ago for allegedly violating weight and balance procedures, is also the latest focus on an AMR Corp airline after the FAA fined American USD7.1 million and, more recently, said it was increasing oversight of American related to its MD-80 fleet. The major carrier is also facing USD10 million in fines for improperly securing wiring on 290 MD-80 aircraft. In addition, the agency levied a USD7.5 million fine against Southwest.
The agency said the violations centred on the operation of four Bombardier regional jets on which landing gear doors remained unrepaired to standards set down in Airworthiness Directive 2006-14-05, that became effective in Aug-2006. The 1,178 passenger-carrying flights were operated between February and May 2008. While it repaired the doors, it was supposed to remove the doors for repair instead of repairing them in place. The airline later removed the doors, repairing them as directed by the Directive.
FAA inspectors found that the airline operated at least 961 flights while it was unaware that the situation existed on these aircraft, according to the agency, which went on to allege the carrier continued to operate the aircraft for another 217 flights after the situation was discovered.
American Eagle has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to both fines. It has publicly disputed the penalty, saying inspections of the doors and the repairs made and that the airline voluntarily disclosed its mistake in how the doors were repaired. In addition, Eagle said that the FAA had approved a Bombardier fix for repairing the doors while still on the aircraft.
“Following Airworthiness Directives is not optional,’’ said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “The FAA does not hesitate to levy fines if maintenance standards are violated. Compliance with mandatory maintenance requirements ensures the highest levels of safety.”