American Airlines in hot water with FAA

GuppyWN

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American Airlines faces an escalating dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration over allegedly improper repairs to at least 16 aircrafts.

FAA officials suspect that one of those planes was abruptly retired to get it out of sight of government inspectors, according to people familiar with the details.

The probe, these people said, has raised red flags at the FAA about the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier's willingness to properly disclose potential safety problems. It follows a string of clashes between the FAA and American, a unit of AMR Corp., over maintenance issues ranging from faulty emergency slides to engine parts with the wrong coatings. Those enforcement cases are continuing.

The latest case is viewed as particularly serious because some FAA inspectors believe it's likely the airline chose to mothball one plane suddenly as part of an effort to hide the extent of suspected defects. The plane was ferried to the New Mexico desert in March for storage, according to people familiar with the probe and company documents, which have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

About three weeks earlier, American's engineering paperwork showed the plane was slated to undergo repairs that would let it return to service. But American didn't explicitly tell the FAA of its change in plans, these people said, and agency officials didn't learn about it until after the fact.

FAA press officials confirmed that the investigation into the repairs is continuing, but declined to provide details. The probe could result in millions of dollars in proposed fines or penalties.

American spokesman Tim Wagner told the Journal that "the FAA has provided American the opportunity to respond to its investigation, and we are in the process of doing so." Mr. Wagner declined to elaborate, adding "we believe conversations outside of that process are inconsistent with FAA regulations."

Without commenting on specifics of the retired plane, Mr. Wagner said allegations of impropriety "misrepresent the facts," adding that the FAA "has complete access to retired airplanes -- and it exercises that access frequently." According to Mr. Wagner, "all airlines have the authority to make decisions regarding the retirement of individual aircraft based on economic and competitive factors."

The FAA's probe, which began several months ago, focuses on allegations that incorrect fasteners, improperly drilled holes, related poor workmanship and other maintenance lapses afflict a portion of American's aging fleet of MD-80 series jets, which American is gradually replacing with more fuel-efficient planes.

According to preliminary findings of FAA inspectors, at least 16 of the twin-engine planes were operated for months, and sometimes years, with potentially substandard repairs to cracks around their rear pressure bulkheads, key structural parts that can cause rapid cabin decompression if they rupture. American is in the process of responding to a formal FAA "letter of investigation" spelling out the allegations.

American's situation harkens back to the spring of 2008, when lawmakers revealed that a year earlier Southwest Airlines Co. knowingly continued to carry passengers on 46 aircraft without performing essential safety inspections. Southwest subsequently said it got approval to do so from local FAA officials. In American's case, it pulled planes from service once it realized repairs were needed. But some FAA officials fault it for waiting too long and then hurriedly retiring a plane already under FAA scrutiny

After flying the affected planes in early February into its Dallas and Tulsa, Okla., maintenance facilities, American told the FAA that it planned to retire a handful of them. The airline then listed 11 remaining MD-80s slated for permanent repairs in Tulsa, spelling out the instructions on an internal work order dated Feb. 12. The plane identified as #279 was on that list.

But by the time FAA inspectors were on hand to assess the condition of the planes and review repair plans, #279 had dropped off the repair list, according to people familiar with the details. A Feb. 28 engineering order laid out in detail the work to be done on the rest of the jets, but didn't mention #279.

After the FAA learned of the fate of aircraft #279, one agency inspector went to Roswell, N.M., specifically to take photos of the fuselage and sections around the rear pressure bulkhead, said people familiar with the matter. Several other FAA inspectors have made various trips in recent month to examine different parts of American's retired MD-80 planes.
 

airksk

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Why is it that every time Southwest gets caught with maintenance problems, the FAA cracks down on American?
 

B6Busdriver

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Who the hell wrote this? It's aircraft...no s...just axe someone if you don't know.
 

Kharma Police

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Why is it that every time Southwest gets caught with maintenance problems, the FAA cracks down on American?
Maybe the APA should give the FAA inspectors a pizza party or a plasma TV?
 

EMBpilot

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Why is it that every time Southwest gets caught with maintenance problems, the FAA cracks down on American?
Because Dallas feds want free type ratings for other airplanes besides 737. SWA trained them well.
AA though looks into the problems and fixes them instead.
 

Raoul Duke

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seems like the inspectors have a chip on their shoulder re AA. Must have applied there at some point and got denied. FAA is the land of the misfit toys. . .
 

Flopgut

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Run this issue to ground and you find out AA could build the plane, or the part. SWA barely has the technical expertise required to install the bogus parts...but that's ok.

Nice job Gup. I'd skip trying to smooth this one over if I were you.
 

Quimby

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Run this issue to ground you find out AA could build the plane, or the part. SWA barely has the technical expertise required to install the bogus parts...but that's ok.

Nice job Gup. I'd skip trying to smooth this one over if I were you.
What?
 

boeingdriver213

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Anyone who reads anything besides this forum know the FAA is cracking down on ALL carriers, not just WN or AA. Congress wants to look like the hero in this so they took the FAA to task about air carrier oversight and told them to dig deep til they find something, which they seem to be doing.
 
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