FAA proposes $13.5 million Boeing fine
WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday proposed fining Boeing $13.5 million for failing to meet a deadline to provide airlines with instructions on how to prevent fuel tank explosions like the one that destroyed TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, N.Y., 16 years ago, killing all 230 people on board.
The fine – the second-largest the FAA has ever proposed – underscores the difficulty the agency has had prodding industry to comply with important safety regulations that can be complex or expensive to implement.
In July 2008, then-Transportation Secretary Mary Peters held a news conference along with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to celebrate new regulations aimed at preventing another tragedy like the one in 1996, when a fuel tank on the Boeing 747 exploded minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport.
Four years later, not only has Boeing been late in meeting those regulations, but airlines are balking at making some of the aircraft fixes they’re required to make.
The longer airlines can delay retrofitting the fuel tanks of older planes, the fewer repairs they’ll have to make because those planes are continually being replaced with newer aircraft with differently designed tanks, said John Goglia, a former NTSB member and expert on aircraft maintenance.
U.S. airlines, through the trade group Airlines for America, have been asking the FAA to extend the deadlines for retrofitting their fleets, which fall in 2014 and 2017. “There is simply not enough time to retrofit airplanes … by the rule’s deadline,” the group wrote to the FAA on March 28.
On Friday, the FAA said it would not issue a blanket extension but would consider extension requests by individual airlines for the 2014 deadline when they must retrofit half their fleets.
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