FAA proposes $300,000 civil penalty against American Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it is proposing a $300,000 civil penalty on American Airlines for a maintenance violation.

The FAA alleges that on Feb. 2, 2009, American Airlines mechanics deferred maintenance on a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 under the airline’s DC-9 Minimum Equipment List (MEL) by noting that the “pitot/stall heater light off” light on the aircraft’s annunciator panel was inoperative.

However, maintenance personnel determined the next day that the inoperative part was actually the captain’s pitot probe heater. Pitot probes are mounted on the exterior surfaces of an airplane and are used in measuring airspeed. Because they can be affected by a build-up of ice, these devices are equipped with heaters. The airplane’s MEL allows for maintenance on the pitot probe heater to be deferred, but it restricts flights to daytime only, in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). It prohibits flights into known or forecast icing or visible moisture.

Because mechanics logged the discrepancy as an inoperative panel light, the flight crew was unaware that the daytime, VMC restrictions applied to further flights. The aircraft was operated on five passenger revenue flights, in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations.

American Airlines has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to the agency.

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