Friday, March 12, 2010

FAA proposes new fines against American Airlines

News that federal airline regulators had proposed a new round of fines against American Airlines for maintenance violations raises troubling questions about the safety of air travel in an era of employee and service cutbacks. Friday's announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration that it wanted to impose $787,500 in fines against the airline for three violations, of which two involved ignoring agency directives, according to Cable News Network (CNN). The airline said it was committed to safety and would discuss the proposed fines with the FAA, apparently with the goal of getting them reduced or eliminated. "American Airlines is very proud of our safety record and our employees' commitment to safety every day," the company said in a prepared statement. "Safety is fundamental to the American Airlines culture and to our success." But the airline's protestations do not explain why it failed to adequately inspect rudders on four Boeing 757s that flew in 2008 after the FAA ordered the inspections, why it allowed one of its planes to fly passengers 10 times despite knowledge of a malfunctioning computer and why is allowed an MD-82 to fly twice even though its may not have gone through proper safety checks. American Airlines said it stood by its FAA-certificated mechanics, which it said "have met and passed all FAA experience requirements, written tests, and practical examinations." But rhetoric does not take the place of action and, if airline cutbacks are starting to affect maintenance the way they have already affected service, government regulators are going to have to get more serious about what the companies are allowed to do. Then again, maybe they are. American is the fourth major airline to face fines in the past year for failing to follow FAA repair orders. The FAA proposed fines of $5.4 million against US Airways and $3.8 million against United Airlines for maintenance violations, and Southwest Airlines paid $7.5 million in March to settle another agency safety complaint, CNN said.

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