The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $787,500 fine against American Airlines for a series of maintenance violations. According to CNN, “The fines encompass three incidents beginning in March 2008, when American Airlines failed to follow a directive on the inspection of rudder components on certain Boeing 757s, according to the FAA. Four of its 757s did not comply with airworthiness requirements as a result.
“In April 2008, the airline allowed one of its jetliners to fly 10 passenger flights after mechanics diagnosed a problem with one of the plane’s central air data computers, according to the agency. During that time, the flight crew members were led to believe that both computers were working properly.
“In the third case, mechanics at American Airlines returned a MD-82 jetliner to service in May, even though several steps of its maintenance schedule had not been checked off as completed, the agency said.”
That second infraction, concerning the central air data computers, accounts for approximate $625,000 of the total fine.
American stood by its safety record, saying, “AA is the only U.S. airline that continues to handle the majority of its heavy maintenance with in-house, FAA certificated mechanics that have met and passed all FAA experience requirements, written tests, and practical examinations.”
I don’t really know how bragging about its in-house maintenance helps American in this case, but there you go.
This proposed penalty is just the latest in a growing trend of significant fines from the government. In a separate case, American is staring down a roughly $10 million fine from the FAA for maintenance issues that led to thousands of flight cancellations, while the Department of Transportation has recently hit Spirit and US Airways with fines. Southwest is also being investigated for questionable maintenance procedures, and even the FAA itself has received scrutiny for lax oversight.
This last point makes me wonder: Does this influx of fines reflect on an agency that wasn’t paying enough attention to the industry it oversees? Or is it simply a case of rising infractions?