FAA Seeks $24.2 Million Penalty From American

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American Airlines is facing the largest fine ever proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration — more than $24 million over maintenance lapses that caused thousands of canceled flights in 2008. American says it plans to challenge the fine.


And aviation regulators have proposed the largest ever, fine, against an airline. It's American Airlines. The government penalty of more than $24 million is for maintenance problems that occurred two years ago and forced American Airlines to ground hundreds of planes.

NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH: If you were scheduled to fly on American Airlines in April 2008, you'll remember this well.

(Soundbite of Newscast)

Unidentified Man: American Airlines passengers are facing more problems. The airline is canceling more than 900 flights today, to fix potentially faulty wiring on its planes.

KEITH: Over several days, American canceled thousands of flights. This came after the FAA discovered the airline had failed to make mandatory fixes to its MD-80 planes. In its complaint, the FAA says that before the problems were fixed, the airline flew more than 14,000 flights with planes out of compliance with federal rules. American Airlines says there was never a flight safety issue.

Richard Aboulafia is an aviation analyst at the Teal Group.

Mr. RICHARD ABOULAFIA (Aviation analyst, Teal Group): It was a clash between two different ways of looking at it. One being well, we can do it over a longer time period. And the other guys saying, you don't understand, we're the regulators, we want this done yesterday.

KEITH: With this $24 million proposed civil penalty, Aboulafia says the FAA is making its position extra clear.

Mr. ABOULAFIA: This is a time when federal agencies have been criticized for being too close to the industries they regulate and the FAA wants to show it has a zero tolerance policy.

KEITH: American Airlines says the FAA's action is unwarranted and it plans to challenge the fine.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

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