Proposed penalties against AMR focus on maintenance procedures

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The US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) proofs of claims outlining $162.4 million in proposed civil penalties against American Airlines' parent AMR focuses on several alleged instances where its companies failed to ensure proper aircraft maintenance procedures, according to bankruptcy court documents obtained by Flightglobal.

"American Airlines is aware of the pre-petition claims filed with the bankruptcy court on behalf of the FAA through the established bankruptcy claims process," says the operator in a statement. "The claims process is a routine part of any chapter 11 filing. It is not an admission that money is owed, nor is it an admission that the amount cited is correct."

The agency filed four proofs of claims with the US bankruptcy court on 12 July.

The most severe is one outlining $156.5 million in proposed civil penalties. Within this claim is a "recommended sanction" of $39.3 million, which the FAA says is due to American's alleged failure to comply with an airworthiness directive (AD) effective in 2005 that mandated the re-routing of wire bundles on Boeing 757-200 aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines.

The FAA alleges that after the airline had released an engineering change order to comply with the AD, three aircraft showed non-compliance after inspections in 2009.

The claim then says that the principal maintenance inspector alerted American management to a "systemic problem with non-compliance of the AD". The FAA writes that 113 out of 124 757s allegedly were not in compliance with the AD while operating on 1,480 passenger revenue flights.

The second largest claim includes a recommended sanction of $27.6 million. The agency says American allegedly did not comply with an AD that required the nacelle strut and wing structure on the left and right sides of Boeing 767-200s powered by General Electric engines to undergo modifications.

According to the agency's filing, the airline did not perform a required procedure that involved applying a "stylus cadmium plate to the surface of the lug hole". The airline allegedly operated four 767-200s on 2,118 flights between 25 January and 9 October 2008 without completing the procedure and not having approval from the FAA to forego it.

In a separate claim totaling $5.3 million, the FAA alleges that on multiple occasions, American Eagle Airlines failed to follow tasks required by an engineering technical notice related to "the handling of pilot reports of low strut levels for the nose landing gear [NLG]". The claim says that by allegedly not performing these tasks, American Eagle had "allowed the damage to the NLG piston/axle assembly, causing the leak, not to be discovered and replaced". The regional carrier allegedly operated a Bombardier CRJ700 (registration number N524AE) on 56 revenue passenger flights with a damaged piston/axle assembly of the nose landing gear and without meeting the engineering technical notice requirements.

The FAA has also filed two more proofs of claim regarding alleged violations against Eagle Aviation Services, based in Abilene, Texas and Executive Airlines, which operates as American Eagle. These claims total $17,875 and $629,500, respectively.

The carrier maintains that the proofs of claim outlining these alleged violations did not impact safety on the flights.

"Safety is fundamental to the success of American Airlines, and at no time did American operate an aircraft that was unsafe for flight," the carrier said. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers, our people and our planes."

American says that it has been working closely with the FAA for several years to improve its process for AD-related maintenance, adding that it has voluntarily invested in 70 projects for continuous improvement in quality and compliance processes since 2008. The airline says that it is working with the FAA to improve its process for responding to ADs, with initiatives that include reorganising operational groups, enhancing training, bolstering surveillance and oversight as well as revising maintenance manuals.