FAA Proposes $2.9M Fine against American Eagle

February 22, 2010

Federal regulators have hit the sister carrier of American Airlines with another penalty topping $2 million for safety violations.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that American Eagle operated at least 1,178 flights with four jets that had main landing gear doors that weren’t repaired according to standards set in a government safety order.

The airline disputed the penalty, which hinged on whether landing gear doors were removed from the Bombardier planes before being fixed. It said safety was not compromised.

The flights took place between February and May 2008.

The FAA proposed a $2.9 million penalty against American Eagle, which operates regional flights for American Airlines.

Two weeks ago, the FAA proposed a fine of nearly $2.5 million against American Eagle for not making sure that crews had accurate information about the weight of baggage on dozens of flights. Some of the planes were too heavy and should not have taken off, the FAA said.

AMR Corp., the Texas-based parent of both American Airlines and Eagle, has 30 days to appeal both fines.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said following federal safety orders “is not optional.”

“The FAA does not hesitate to levy fines if maintenance standards are violated,” Babbitt said in a statement.

American Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the company was “disappointed” that FAA would penalize the carrier.

“Eagle conducted the inspections as called for in the (safety order) and made repairs when the inspection indicated a repair was required,” Huguely said in a statement. She said Eagle voluntarily told the FAA that repairs on some planes might have been done while the landing gear doors were still on the aircraft.

Huguely said the FAA and Bombardier approved a process for repairing the doors while they remained on the planes.

“We do not believe that this case involved a safety-of-flight issue, or that a civil penalty is warranted,” she said.

The FAA said a 2006 safety order required operators of some Bombardier jets to inspect landing gear doors for cracks and loose or missing fasteners, then remove the doors for repairs or replacement.

Safety advocates and some members of Congress have pushed FAA to step up oversight of airlines since allegations arose about cozy relationships between FAA inspectors and Southwest Airlines in 2008. The pressure intensified after last year’s deadly crash near Buffalo of a Continental Connection regional airline flight.

The FAA has proposed several fines in the past two years against Southwest and American. Last year, Southwest agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle one case. American could soon face a penalty of about $10 million for violations involving wiring in its fleet of MD-80 aircraft, according to a government official familiar with the investigation.

Separately, the Transportation Department’s inspector general is nearing completion of a report on maintenance issues at American and Eagle.

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