FAA wants to fine American Airlines for safety lapses

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed $7.1 million in fines against American Airlines for several safety lapses, including allegedly flying planes 58 times without necessary maintenance on autopilot systems.

The proposed fine is a significant penalty by FAA standards. Earlier this year, the agency slapped Dallas-based Southwest Airlines with a $10.2 million fine for a series of inspection lapses; that penalty was the largest in the FAA's history.

The agency claims that in December 2007, American returned two MD-80 airplanes to service without required maintenance, after pilots had reported equipment problems.

The maintenance, which the FAA says was needed for the autopilot system, was improperly deferred, the agency claims, even after an FAA inspector told the airline the work needed to be completed.

"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," the agency said in a prepared statement. "The carrier did not follow important safety regulations intended to protect passengers and crew.”

The maintenance lapses resulted in a $4.1 million penalty. The agency said it had previously proposed a $2.7 million fine for lapses in American’s drug and alcohol testing program and for a problem with inspections of the lighting system in emergency exit areas. Another $325,000 penalty has been proposed in another case of a plane flying without a fully functioning autopilot.

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