FAA seeks $7 million airline fine

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it is seeking $7.1 million from American Airlines for continuing to fly airliners after safety problems were reported and for drug-testing violations.

The Texas-based airline delayed repairs on two MD-80s – a mid-sized airliner – after problems were reported with their autopilot systems and flew them 58 times in violations of federal regulations, the FAA said.

The largest fine FAA has ever proposed against an airline was $10.2 million against Southwest Airlines in March for flying airplanes without performing mandatory inspections, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.

American released a statement calling the fine “excessive” and saying it intends to contest it.

On Dec. 11 and 12, American delayed maintenance to the autopilot system of one of the MD-80s and flew the airliner eight more times in airspace where planes are allowed to group more closely together, violating FAA regulations, Dorr said.

An FAA inspector discovered the violations and informed American, but the airline sent the plane on 10 more flights until the problem was finally fixed on Dec. 17, the agency said.

The FAA also documented other autopilot incidents.

The FAA is also seeking fines against American for violating drug and alcohol testing procedures involving several dozen flight attendants and other employees, only one of which was a pilot, Dorr said.

The airline also did not make timely inspections of its emergency lighting systems inside aircraft for several years, the agency said.

American is one of the world's largest airlines, with 60,000 flights a month.