FAA Cites More Airlines On Safety IssuesSep 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reporting that 11 United States airlines are facing investigations and possible fines for not following safety directives. Also, Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell said yesterday that FAA audits discovered that there were 17 cases in which the carriers—three of which are major airlines—allegedly failed to meet airline safety directives. The FAA did not name the companies cited and said that no passengers were at risk due to the airlines not following safety directives, "We can't point to an instance where passengers or people would have been put at risk," said James Ballough, the FAA's director of flight standards.
"Obviously the goal is 100 percent compliance," Sturgell said at a news conference in Washington. "You have to continually improve the system." Meanwhile, the FAA’s review was developed in order to locate lapses in safety rules beyond those uncovered earlier this year at Southwest Airlines. In that case, Southwest Airlines may be required to pay fines totaling a record $10.2 million for operating 46 older Boeing 737s on 59,791 flights in 2006 and 2007 without those airplanes having received full inspections for fuselage cracks. The FAA, which controls the world's busiest airspace, has been working to increase confidence in its oversight of airline maintenance following discovery by a U.S. House panel of safety flaws and omissions during an investigation of the Southwest case. So-called “airworthiness” directives are issued routinely when the FAA determines that airplane parts or airline procedures might result in a safety risk. When this occurs, carriers must ensure they meet the FAA's requirements.
On April 2, the FAA said that an initial audit conducted in March found seven cases of noncompliance involving four carriers. At that time, no large airlines were implicated. Now, the FAA reports that 15 airlines—and in this case, three of the airlines involved are major carriers—are under investigation for 24 cases of alleged non-compliance with safety directives. "Major" airlines are defined as those ranked in the top 10 for U.S. market share by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.
The two rounds of audits included more than 5,600 record checks at more than 100 airlines. The FAA said it found 88 cases of carriers not following directives, a 98 percent compliance rate. The 88 cases were later narrowed to 24 that remain under investigation. The FAA eliminated others among the 88 after discovering some planes involved had been placed out of service or carriers implicated had complied with directives through other means.
Three airline fleet-related FAA actions in recent weeks were considered an indication that more inspection-related flight delays were expected. At that time American Airlines were forced to ground some planes and canceled 300 flights to re-inspect wiring in Boeing Company MD-80s after federal regulators raised questions during a maintenance audit and was also checking whether a sleeve covering a bundle of wires was installed according to an FAA directive. Southwest Airlines and United Airlines were also subject to FAA actions at that time.