View Full Version : FAA waving the big stick again

14th Aug 2008, 23:11
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US airline 'broke safety rules' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7562165.stm)

Seems that American Airlines were knowingly flying some MD83s in a defective state and the FAA have stuck them with a big fine.

14th Aug 2008, 23:33
This was the press release from the FAA:

For Immediate Release
August 14, 2008
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr.
Phone: (202) 267-3883

FAA Seeks Penalties Against American Airlines for Deferred Maintenance, Other Violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced actions totaling $7.1 million in civil penalties against American Airlines for improperly deferring maintenance on safety-related equipment and deficiencies with its drug and alcohol testing programs and exit lighting inspections.

The FAA asserts that in December 2007, American used the wrong provisions of its Minimum Equipment List (MEL) to return two MD-83 aircraft to service after pilots had reported problems, and flew the planes 58 times in violation of FAA regulations. The MEL contains components and systems without which the aircraft may operate safely under specific limitations, as proven by the operator or manufacturer.

On December 11 and 12, American operated the first MD-83 on eight flights in airspace it should have been restricted from after maintenance on part of the autopilot system was improperly deferred. An FAA inspector discovered the improper deferral and informed the airline, however American flew the plane on 10 more revenue flights until the problem was fixed on December 17.

In another incident, the autopilot disconnected during a landing by the same aircraft on December 21. American technicians did not check for the actual problem, and instead deferred maintenance using an inappropriate MEL item. The plane flew another 36 passenger-carrying flights during December 21-31. Airline maintenance later discovered the fault was in a radio altimeter not the autopilot.

For the violations involving this MD-83, the FAA is proposing a $4.1 million civil penalty.

A different MD-83 experienced an autopilot disconnect on December 27. Although American mechanics correctly diagnosed the problem, they again deferred maintenance under the wrong item of the MEL. As a result, the aircraft operated on four revenue flights without a fully functioning autopilot. The FAA is proposing a $325,000 civil penalty in this instance.

The FAA believes the large total amount of the fine for these violations is appropriate because American Airlines was aware that appropriate repairs were needed, and instead deferred maintenance. In intentionally continuing to fly the aircraft, the carrier did not follow important safety regulations intended to protect passengers and crew.

Also, in May of this year the FAA proposed civil penalties in the amount of $2.7 million in civil penalties against American for alleged past deficiencies in its drug and alcohol testing programs and for allegedly operating aircraft in past years without timely inspections of emergency escape path lighting systems. The amount included $1.7 million civil penalty for the testing program violations and $1 million for the lighting inspection violations.

American Airlines will have the opportunity to respond to the proposed civil penalties.


15th Aug 2008, 01:10
Really more of an example of inflamatory media articles, and overzealous inspectors.

What they're describing are very minor things that got flown for a few days on a technicality; someone cited the wrong MEL item in what would have nearly certainly been deferrable under a different line item...a technicality. Doesn't sound like safety was compromised in the least. Someone's principle maintenance inspector is trying to make a name for himself.

15th Aug 2008, 01:28
Problem is,those seemingly innocuous paperwork errors could turn into a real disaster. Flying an airplane with a bogus deferral of a nav light on the right vs. left wing isn't a big deal, but deferring the wrong fuel pump, valve or electrical generator can turn into a real nightmare scenario should other failures occur.

The sanction isn't about how benign the mistake was, it's about the occurence in the first place.

15th Aug 2008, 03:36
To All...

The way our current curiously inventive, budget-blowing, rights-killing administration has seeded various offices with "their own" is starting to show.

I've never seen such impressive fines combined with such an impressive lack of constructive criticism.

Combine that with the attitude this current crop of joes have - they're trying to convince us they're earning their paychecks by FINING a company for gross breachs nearly a year after they happen!

And they're picking the perfect time to do it, if they want to cause layoffs among their own. Keep pasting airlines with high fines, they'll inch closer to the "deep red" than they are...


Romeo India Xray
15th Aug 2008, 06:21
I would disagree that an inop nav light is a minor issue for you guys Stateside. There's a lot of GA in and around commercial airports west of the pond with lots of those pilots using see and avoid, and not all of them being transponder equipped. Couple that with an overstretched ATC, I think I would want the GA jock to know which way I was going.

As for the issue of these fines, they do indeed seem to be a bit draconian. I moonlight for an NAA and in my neck of the woods the probability of fines like this (or proportionally similar) would almost certainly be out of the question. NAAs have other tools at their disposal, not only fines!

15th Aug 2008, 14:33
I'm not sure I understand...was it illegal to fly without an autopilot, or was the wrong MEL number used to allow a flight without the autopilot.

15th Aug 2008, 16:49
Romeo India Xray:

You completely missed the point I was attempting to make. Completely and Utterly.

15th Aug 2008, 17:33
The key to understanding these fines is the notion of the "normalization of deviance" under a regulatory system moving towards SMS.

Comments such as FIRESYSOK's and others are spot on. This is about process, not individual acts of MEL issues etc.

The default view of "this is about politics and money" may be demonstrable (always is), but that isn't news nor is saying it helpful in fully comprehending what's going on.

What is news, is, the FAA is taking back some ground lost to an SMS "(relatively) non-involved, self-monitoring" safety system. For reasons we may only guess, the record shows that US carriers were getting sloppy. Frankly, I think the same circumstances exist in Australia and Canada. Not sure about EASA yet but the record is not as spotty as in the former two.

In my considered opinion, Transport Canada is in the same position but I don't think they know it yet. The approach to SMS is hiding a lot of ills...