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American Airlines fined for safety lapses

The Kansas City Star-Telegram reported today that American faces $7.1 million dollars in fines as a result of safety concerns that surfaced earlier this year.  Lapses included allegedly flying planes on 58 occasions without necessary maintenance on mechanical systems such as the autopilot.  Planes were put back in service after pilots reported equpment problems, without required maintenance, and inspection or repair was deferred even aftean FAA inspector insisted that the work be completed.

Earlier this year, the airline grounded 3,000 flights and stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers after an FAA audit revealed that it had not propertly inspecting airpline wiring as required.  It has also been fined for lapses in drug- and alcohol-testing and for "problems with inspections of the lighting system in emergency-exit areas."

This spring the agency hit Southwest Airlines with a 10.2 million dollar fine after documenting its failure to inspect for potentially dangerous fuselage cracks.  Most commentators believe the agency is responding to criticism by its own inspectors that it was unduly cozy with the airline industry.

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