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FAA Hits American Airlines With Biggest Civil Penalty Fine In History

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week that it has decided to fine American Airlines a whopping $24.2 Million for the airline's alleged failure to inspect and repair elements in the wiring systems and rudder components of its fleet of McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 and Boeing 757  jets.

The record-setting fine relates to FAA inspections of American's fleet, conducted in 2008 and 2009, which revealed that required maintenance and repairs were being deferred, and that proper procedures required for maintenance inspections were not being stringently followed.

The most egregious violation cited by the FAA was American's deferring the replacement of faulty central air data computers (CADCs) on some of its MD-80s in 2008. Not only did American allow at least 10 flights to operate on one of the planes requiring maintenance, but it also lead the flight crew to believe that the mechanisms were working properly.

Additionally, the FAA alleges that after American said it would ground several of its 747s when it was revealed that the maintenance of certain rudder components had not been made as required, American instead flew two of the affected jets for a total of 3 passenger flights.

The FAA also cites violations of American's mechanics for failing to follow proper procedure in logging the details, or lack thereof, of maintenance made to the airline's fleet of jets.

American has stated that it intends to fight the penalty.

The official FAA press release details the fine. Prior to this civil penalty, the highest fine imposed by the FAA was against Southwest Airlines for $10.2 Million for failing to inspect its fleet of 737s and other maintenance issues. Southwest settled the fine for $7.5 Million in 2009.

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