British Airways (BA) has appealed a US Federal Aviation Administration claim that the carrier operated an aircraft “in an unairworthy condition” when it allowed a captain to continue a Boeing 747-400 flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow after one of its four engines was shut down shortly after takeoff.
The two sides are scheduled to meet on May 16 in Washington, DC, when a US Department of Transportation (DoT) arbitration judge will hear the UK carrier’s defence against a January ruling that fines the airline $25,000 for the infraction.
BA says the airline believes it acted within US laws when it decided to allow a 19 February 2005 flight to continue its journey to London after Los Angeles air traffic control observed flames from the aircraft’s number two engine during take-off. The aircraft’s captain shutdown the engine and proceeded with the flight on three engines until declaring a fuel emergency and diverting to Manchester airport on the UK's northwest coast.
“British Airways operated the…aircraft with only three engines, bypassing numerous suitable alternate airfields in the USA and Canada before proceeding across the North Atlantic ocean,” says the FAA in its ruling.
“By reason of the above, British Airways operated an aircraft in the United States in an unairworthy condition,” the regulator adds.
Should the DoT judge rule against BA, the airline can then appeal the decision directly to FAA administrator Marion Blakey. A further appeal can then be made to US Court of Appeals.
DARREN SHANNON / WASHINGTON, DC