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FAA seeks penalties against American Airlines for deferred maintenance, other vi
15 August 2008

The U.S. FAA announced actions totaling $7.1 million in civil penalties against American Airlines for improperly deferring maintenance on safety-related equipment and deficiencies with its drug and alcohol testing programs and exit lighting inspections.

The FAA asserts that in December 2007, American used the wrong provisions of its Minimum Equipment List (MEL) to return two MD-83 aircraft to service after pilots had reported problems, and flew the planes 58 times in violation of FAA regulations. The MEL contains components and systems without which the aircraft may operate safely under specific limitations, as proven by the operator or manufacturer.

On December 11 and 12, American operated the first MD-83 on eight flights in airspace it should have been restricted from after maintenance on part of the autopilot system was improperly deferred. An FAA inspector discovered the improper deferral and informed the airline, however American flew the plane on 10 more revenue flights until the problem was fixed on December 17.

In another incident, the autopilot disconnected during a landing by the same aircraft on December 21. American technicians did not check for the actual problem, and instead deferred maintenance using an inappropriate MEL item. The plane flew another 36 passenger-carrying flights during December 21-31. Airline maintenance later discovered the fault was in a radio altimeter