FAA proposes $1.45 million civil penalty against Northwest Airlines

File photo of a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 (photo: Harro Ranter)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $1.45 million civil penalty against Northwest Airlines for operating a number of its Boeing 757 aircraft without proper windshield wiring inspections.

A 1990 FAA airworthiness directive on Boeing 757s required inspections for the presence of undersized wires in the heating system for both the captain’s and first officer’s windows, and replacement if needed. Left uncorrected, the problem could cause overheating, smoking and possibly a fire.

Northwest wrote maintenance instructions for its mechanics in April 1990 that omitted the required inspection of the wires under the first officer’s window. As a result, 32 of the carrier’s 757s flew more than 90,000 passenger flights between December 1, 2005 and May 27, 2008, while not in compliance with the airworthiness directive.

On May 28, 2008, Northwest discovered it had not performed the proper inspections and revised its maintenance instructions. However, the instructions did not require the work be performed before further flight, but at the next planned overnight layover. As a result, 29 of the 32 aircraft flew 42 passenger-carrying flights while they were still out of compliance with the airworthiness directive.

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

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