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Sun, Nov 14, 2004

FAA Socks Southeast Airlines With $240K+ Fine

Agency once again penalizing airline for repeated safety violations

A few days ago ANN reported that the FAA proposed fines against a number of airlines and aviation companies for non-compliance with regulations. In one of those actions, the FAA has proposed a total of $242,250 in fines against Southeast Airlines, based out of St Petersburg (FL), for failing to perform inspections that were due on three of their eight aircraft, among other allegations. The airline operates four McDonnell Douglas DC-9's and four MD-80's of the same manufacturer.

One of the alleged violations involves an aircraft that was allowed to fly past a scheduled inspection at just over 36,000 landings. The maintenance schedule for the aircraft required the bird to be taken out of service and inspected for fuselage cracks, but instead the company allowed the aircraft to continue in service for nearly two months and some 280 additional landings.

The FAA is also alleging that the airline accepted unapproved parts for use on their aircraft from Suncoast Wheel and Brake of Clearwater (FL), including more than a dozen main wheel assembles and over half a dozen brake assemblies. None of the parts were approved by the FAA for maintenance use on Southeast's aircrafts. The airline installed nine of the wheels and all of the brakes on two of its aircraft, making them unairworthy, then flew them for nearly six months on over 400 flights.

This proposed action on the part of the FAA comes hot on the heels of legal action initiated when two pilots previously employed by Southeast claimed they were fired because they refused to break safety regulations in order for the airline to meet its flight schedule. Some of the allegations from the pilots are that the airline ordered them to fly aircraft whose weight exceeded the manufacturer's maximum gross weight limitation, and were then fired when they refused to fly. Others claim that pilot training was performed with substandard manuals, and were threatened with termination if they dared question the airline's procedures.

Southeast issued a statement in response to the proposed fines, but did not address the FAA's allegations. "A Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty does not mean that an airline is in any way at fault," the statement said. "It is simply the process the FAA initiates to get an understanding of an airline's practices and procedures. To date, the FAA has not even set a meeting, held a discussion or taken any further actions regarding this particular inquiry."

According to the airline, the FAA is not correct in its assessment of a fine for unairworthy parts, claiming that the agency was working from a manual that was out of date, and that it provided the correct manual to the FAA more than a year ago.

The airline has responded that the allegations all came from "disgruntled former employees."

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.flyseal.com

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