FAA under scrutiny for airline maintenance lapses


The FAA is facing a wide-ranging investigation into recent maintenance troubles at airlines. The Washington Post quotes the Department of Transportation’s inspector general in reporting the probe was prompted by congressional criticism of the FAA.

The office of inspector general would not name the one airline it says is being targeted in particular, but pilots and American Airlines officials report the IG staff has been focused on that carrier in recent weeks.

American came under fire in the wake of revelations involving FAA inspections at its cross-town competitor, Southwest Airlines. The FAA admitted earlier this year its inspectors improperly allowed Southwest Airlines to fly approximately 45 jets in need of key safety checks.

The inspector general is expected to release a report on that case soon. “We will certainly work with the inspector general as they go through their audits,” FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said,

Though Southwest was fined $10.2 million in the aftermath of that incident, the carrier’s operations were impacted only slightly. That wasn’t the case weeks later at American, however, when that carrier was forced to ground its entire fleet of MD-82 and MD-83 aircraft for wiring inspections. Those groundings resulted in over 3,300 cancelled flights, and some 350,000 stranded passengers.

American says the FAA forced those cancellations… an accusation the agency has downplayed in the past. Spokesman John Hotard confirmed officials with the DOT recently visited the carrier’s Fort Worth, TX headquarters… but added he expects inspector found few, if any, problems.

“We’ve got the most experienced and well-trained workforce in the industry, and we not only maintain our aircraft but we maintain other airlines’ aircraft as well,” Hotard said