Proposed Record Fines Illustrate Seriousness of Airline Safety Violations

Maintenance errors are the second leading cause of aircraft crashes, behind pilot errors. A recent disclosure that the federal government wants to impose a record amount of fines against the nation's third largest airline for lax safety procedures puts into context just how serious a problem this can be.

On August 7, it was revealed the Federal Aviation Administration is seeking to fine American Airlines and its affiliates a record $162.4 million for alleged safety infractions. This information was disclosed in documents the FAA filed in regard to the bankruptcy case of American and its parent, AMR Corp. The fines cover over 36 charges of safety violations going back to 2007.

According to an Associated Press story, the pilots' union accused American of "missteps in dealing with safety rules."

Record Fines for Aviation Safety Violations

The requested FAA fines against American Airlines includes:

  • $39.3 million for allegedly failing to fix wiring on its Boeing 757 aircraft in 2009. The FAA says American used 113 of the planes over 1,480 flights before making the repairs.
  • $28.8 million for allegedly failing to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for overhauling the main landing gear on Boeing 777 jets.
  • $27.6 million over engine work on Boeing wide-body 767 jets. The FAA alleges Boeing told American in 2008 that it had improperly repaired engines on these aircraft, yet the airline made over 2,000 flights using the planes after the notification.

Two things to note about the proposed FAA fines against American Airlines:

  1. Any of the above fines, individually, would be an all-time record penalty against any U.S. airline
  2. Many of these alleged safety violations were never previously disclosed. They only became public knowledge through a non-safety-related bankruptcy case.

The FAA filed its claims last month to be listed as a creditor in the American bankruptcy case and "protect the American taxpayers," according to media reports.


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