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How Safe Are Our Airlines?

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Washington, DCIn April 2008 American Airlines allowed one of its commercial aircraft to fly 10 passenger flights, even though mechanics had diagnosed a problem with one of the plane's central air data computers. At the time, the flight crew was led to believe both computers were working properly. The incident, together with similar breakdowns in maintenance, has prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to propose fines totaling $787,500 against American Airlines for maintenance violations.

According to CNN Travel, the computer incident was one of three incidents the FAA has taken issue with. In March 2008 American Airlines failed to follow a directive of the inspection of rudder components on certain Boeing 757 aircraft. As a result, four of the 757 jets failed to comply with airworthiness requirements.

The third violation occurred when American Airlines mechanics returned an MD-82 aircraft to service in May 2008 despite the fact that several steps of its maintenance schedule had not been checked off as completed. The FAA reported that the jet flew two passenger flights with the logbook error. What's more, an FAA inspection of the plane revealed several "discrepancies" in the tail section, including loose screws and a missing nut plate.

In a statement issued March 12, American Airlines announced that it stood by its safety record: "American Airlines is very proud of our safety record and our employees' commitment to safety every day. Safety is fundamental to the American Airlines culture and to our success."

In the last few years there have been several safety incidents involving other airlines. Last fall the FAA proposed fines of $5.4 million against US Airways and $3.8 million against United for safety violations. In March of last year Southwest Airlines agreed to pay $7.5 million over allegations the company flew unsafe planes.

American Eagle, a sister company to American Airlines, has also been hit with two rounds of proposed fines. The FAA alleged that American Eagle operated flights without adequately ensuring the proper calculation of weight of baggage and proposed a fine of $2.5 million.

Just weeks later—in February of this year—the FAA was back proposing a new round of fines against American Eagle for allegedly undertaking more than 1000 flights with planes with faulty landing gear doors. It was the view of the agency that repairs ordered in August 2006 to the landing gear doors of four Bombardier regional jets that had not been repaired in a manner prescribed by the FAA.

The jets were flown in February and May 2008, the CNN report said.

American Eagle said in a statement it was disappointed in the FAA action, that the public was never in danger and the fine was unwarranted.



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