The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it proposed $9.2 million in civil penalties against United Airlines and US Airways for allegedly operating planes that weren’t in compliance with their own maintenance procedures or federal airworthiness directives.
The agency said it is proposing a $5.4 million fine against US Airways Group Inc. for allegedly operating eight aircraft on nearly 1,700 flights from October 2008 to January 2009 while the planes were out of compliance with regulations or procedures.
The FAA alleged that United, a unit of UAL Corp., operated a Boeing 737 on more than 200 flights between February and April of 2008 after the carrier violated its own maintenance procedures on one of the plane’s engines. The agency is proposing a $3.8 million fine against United.
Both airlines have 30 days to respond to the FAA. Airlines normally try to negotiate a lower fine amount with the agency.
US Airways Group Inc. based in Tempe, Ariz., said its proposed penalty dates to “challenges we experienced during the integration of maintenance systems and processes” in 2007 between US Airways and America West Airlines. Those carriers merged in 2005. Once their maintenance regimes were integrated, there were some problems in inspections and records during 2007, 2008 and early 2009, US Airways said.
US Airways said it has worked cooperatively with the FAA to investigate and correct any discrepancies and hopes to achieve a negotiated resolution of the agency’s civil penalty proposal.
The agency said it found that US Airways operated an Embraer 190 regional jet on 19 flights while the aircraft wasn’t in compliance with a directive that required inspections to prevent a cargo door from opening during flight. The airline also failed to perform inspections for cracks in a landing-gear part on an Airbus A320, and operated two of those models on 43 flights, the FAA said.
The FAA also alleged that US Airways failed to perform inspections or tests on several planes as required by its own maintenance policies and procedures.
United allegedly operated the 737 after shop towels, instead of protective caps, had been used to cover openings in the oil sump area of an engine during a maintenance check. That was a violation of the airline’s own procedures and put the plane in a non-airworthy condition.
A spokeswoman for United, based in Chicago, said the carrier immediately reported the problem and its findings to the FAA. She said the company is “reviewing” the proposed penalty. The 737 in question was retired by the airline in November 2008 as part of United’s retirement of its entire 737 fleet.