Saturday, May 15, 2010

Continental Airlines maintenance lapse earns $325,000 FAA fine

by B. N. Sullivan

Continental Airlines B737-900ERThe alleged mishandling of a maintenance issue on a Continental Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft has resulted in the imposition of a hefty fine by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency announced earlier this week that it was proposing a $325,000 civil penalty against the carrier "for operating an aircraft on at least a dozen commercial flights without properly maintaining its right main landing gear."

Here is how the FAA press release about the fine explained the alleged safety violation:
The FAA alleges that on December 20, 2008, the crew of a Continental Boeing 737 saw a warning light on the right main landing gear indicator after the gear retracted on a flight from Houston to Los Angeles. After discussing the situation with Continental maintenance control, the crew elected to continue the flight.

However, the flight diverted to Phoenix after the crew noticed the aircraft was burning an excessive amount of fuel. On the ground, Continental maintenance workers inspected the landing gear but did not make a required entry in the aircraft’s maintenance log or any other maintenance record about the abnormal landing gear indication.

The FAA alleges the airline operated the aircraft on at least 12 additional passenger flights before the abnormal gear indication was addressed by mechanics, in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations.
The FAA announcement also quoted FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who said, “Air carriers cannot let maintenance issues lapse. When a problem is discovered, it needs to be corrected immediately.”

Continental Airlines has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s civil penalty letter.

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