Latest In Series Of Fines Against Carrier
As their contracted
Sea-Tac ground crews receive additional training on the importance
of telling someone when you accidentally hit an aircraft with your
luggage cart, the FAA has proposed a half-million
dollar fine against Alaska Airlines for flying an aircraft for two
weeks without required emergency lighting -- and then going an
additional two weeks with the wrong parts.
According to the Seattle Times, the 737-200 in question flew 478
flights between December 2004 and mid-February 2005 without
required emergency-exit identifier lights at the plane's two front
doors. According to regulations, commercial airliners are not
airworthy without such lighting.
The FAA alleged Goodrich Aviation Technical Services -- one of
three companies contracted to perform heavy maintenance work for
the carrier after Alaska shut down its own facility in September
2004 -- signed off on the aircraft in December 2004 after
performing "C" and "D" checks on the airliner, without verifying
the lighting was operational.
Alaska discovered the problem in early February -- after the
aircraft had undergone about 40 routine checks, the FAA noted --
and while the airline replaced the needed components... it used the
An FAA inspector noticed the improper parts during a February
check, according to the Times, although Alaska did not fix the
problem for good until nearly a week later.
While "safety was not adversely affected" for the two weeks the
737-200 (one of seven "combi" models Alaska has in its
fleet, photo above) was operating with the incorrect parts, said
the FAA, the agency chided the airline, and Goodrich, for their
"repeated failures to follow Alaska's [maintenance program], both
during the original maintenance and in the 40 inspections that
failed to detect the unairworthy condition."
An Alaska spokeswoman told the Seattle Times the FAA's proposal
is not final, and that company officials are scheduled to meet with
the agency January 18 to discuss the matter.
"Alaska Airlines and the FAA continue to be engaged in legal
discussions on this matter," said Amanda Tobin.
News of the fine comes
as Alaska fights the perception the company's reliance on outside
contractors has perhaps compromised safety -- and two problems in recent weeks involving
ramp mishaps at Seattle-Tacoma International haven't helped bolster
Both incidents -- one of which led to an MD-80 losing cabin
pressure at 26,000 feet -- were caused by employees of Menzies
Aviation, which Alaska hired last May to replace unionized ground
crews at the airport.
If the latest fine holds, it would be second-largest levied
against the airline since 1998. In 2000, the FAA fined the airline
nearly $1 million based on a safety audit conducted after the
downing of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 in January of that year. Most
recently, the airline was fined $211,000 for operating an MD-80 on
47 flights with landing gear damage in 2001.