The Federal Aviation Administration said today that it has proposed a $9.5-million fine against Eastern Airlines for alleged safety and record-keeping violations, the largest penalty ever sought against an airline.
The agency said the proposed fine, its size contested by the carrier, stemmed from Eastern's alleged failure to carry out inspections and repairs and to comply with maintenance procedures.
The FAA said the suspected violations, many of them stemming from record keeping and some going back to as early as 1981, were uncovered during a nearly three-month inspection.
Officials said Eastern has submitted a comprehensive plan that would correct the situation.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose), chairman of a House aviation subcommittee, said today that he had asked FAA chief Donald Engen whether the problems were severe enough to shut down Eastern.
Mineta said Engen told him that the situation, while serious, "was not a clear and present danger" to air safety.
The New York Times reported that the most serious alleged safety infraction was the use on several Boeing 727 flights of landing gear that was supposed to have been removed from the fleet. Industry sources said the gear on one Eastern plane collapsed during a landing but no one was injured.
The FAA sent a letter to the Miami-based carrier outlining 78,000 alleged individual violations and Eastern reportedly said 60% of the charges were inaccurate.
"The Federal Aviation Administration's Southern region has proposed a substantial civil penalty against Eastern Airlines for alleged maintenance-related violations," the agency said in a statement.
The fines could be reduced and the carrier also could appeal the final decision to the National Transportation Safety Board.