Western Airlines May Face FAA Penalty : Agency Proposes Fine of $766,000 for Alleged Safety Violations

Associated Press

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $766,000 fine against Western Airlines for safety violations allegedly found last summer, officials said Friday.

The airline, last year the country's 11th largest in operating revenue and 13th largest in number of passengers flown, is negotiating with the FAA for a settlement of the enforcement action.

Many of the violations the FAA cited at the Los Angeles-based airline involved record-keeping, but 193 separate violations stemmed from improperly deferred maintenance, according to the FAA.

"During the FAA inspection and review, it was found that on 193 separate occasions Western Airlines failed to follow the proper procedures with respect to deferred-maintenance items of their fleet of approximately 79 aircraft," the inspection report said.

Glenn Bozarth, a spokesman for Western, said late Friday, however, that the FAA, in discussions with the airline, has agreed that the deferred-maintenance issues did not involve direct questions of airworthiness or the safe flight of any of the airline's planes.

"All of the findings (by the FAA) largely involve questions of administrative procedures and record-keeping, and not flight safety," he said in a telephone interview.

Barbara Abels, public affairs officer for the FAA's western region, said Western has taken "prompt action to correct all of the deficiencies" uncovered during the FAA inspections last July and August.

"The FAA is assured that the airline is operating and will continue to operate with the highest standards of safety," Abels said in a telephone interview.

Many of the violations cited by FAA inspectors related to poor record-keeping on training and inspection procedures, and failure to update various manuals as required. At times, the training and inspections might have been conducted properly, but there was no indication in the records that the regulations had been followed, officials said.

Western Airlines has until Feb. 14 to respond to the enforcement action as part of negotiations toward a final settlement.

The action against Western is the latest of a number of penalties levied against or proposed for airlines this year.

American Airlines agreed to pay a fine of $1.5 million earlier this year, in connection with irregularities largely involving maintenance, and the agency has proposed fining Continental Airlines $300,000 for safety violations.

Last month, Alaska Airlines agreed to pay to the FAA $300,000--about half the penalty originally proposed by the agency.

In each case, the FAA has said that the airline corrected the problems cited and is operating safely.

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