The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today proposed fines against US Airways and United Airlines because of violating maintenance procedures and operating airplanes in unsafe conditions.
US Airways is fined a $5.4 million civil penalty for allegedly operating eight aircraft on a total of 1,647 flights from October 2008 to January 2009 while not in compliance with certain Airworthiness Directives (ADs) or the airline’s maintenance program. ADs are rules issued by the FAA when an unsafe condition exists on a type of aircraft, and additional maintenance is required to remedy the problem.
The FAA found the following issues:
- The airline operated one Embraer 190 aircraft on 19 flights from October 22, 2008 to October 26, 2008 while the aircraft was not in compliance with an AD that required inspections to prevent a cargo door from opening during flight.
- The airline failed to perform inspections required by an AD for cracking of a landing gear part on one Airbus A320. The airline operated the aircraft on 26 flights from November 2, 2008 to January 20, 2009 while not in compliance with the AD. The airline also operated another A320 for 17 flights from December 3, 2008 to January 21, 2009 while not in compliance with the same AD.
The FAA found the following problems with maintenance practices:
- US Airways failed to meet the requirements of its Maintenance Policies and Procedures Manual, which required inspections related to engine work on a Boeing 757 aircraft. The airplane was flown on 505 flights from May 2, 2008 to December 3, 2008.
- From October 20, 2008 to November 14, 2008, US Airways operated one Boeing 767 aircraft on 51 flights after failing to perform the inspections, tests, and samplings required by its maintenance program on that aircraft.
- From October 1, 2008 to November 24, 2008, US Airways operated one Boeing 757 aircraft on 121 flights without proper maintenance.
- The airline failed to follow its maintenance program and perform a weekly maintenance check for one Boeing 767 aircraft, which was then operated from November 2, 2008 to November 6, 2008 on 53 flights.
- From May 22, 2008 to January 13, 2009, US Airways operated one Airbus A320 aircraft on 855 flights while the aircraft did not meet the airline’s maintenance program requirements for an engine repair. US Airways could have deferred maintenance of this item for ten days under its maintenance program but failed to do so. Fifty-one of the flights occurred after the FAA, on December 31, 2008, brought the problem to the airline’s attention.
United Airlines was fined a $3.8 million civil penalty for allegedly operating one of its Boeing 737 aircraft on more than 200 flights after the carrier had violated its own maintenance procedures on one of the plane’s engines.
On April 28, 2008, a United 737 returned to Denver after shutting down an engine due to low oil pressure indications. During teardown of the engine a week later, United mechanics found that two shop towels, instead of required protective caps, had been used to cover openings in the oil sump area when maintenance was done in December 2007. As a result of United’s failure to follow its maintenance procedures, between February 10 and April 28, 2008 it flew the aircraft on more than 200 revenue flights when it was not in an airworthy condition.
United’s maintenance procedures specifically require use of protective caps or covers on all components that could be adversely affected by entry of foreign materials.
Both airlines have 30 days to respond to the FAA.