American Airlines made big news this week when the federal aviation administration announced in a New York bankruptcy court that it will fine the company as much as $162.7 million. AA's parent company, Fort Worth-based AMR, is trying to restructure $95 billion of debt to stay in business.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 examined thousands of pages of records and found some of those fines come from violations discovered in Lubbock.
On March 6, 2008 an FAA inspector visited Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport and found five flights had violations related to discrepancies in the baggage weight records kept by American Eagle - the division of the airline that operates in Lubbock.
According to the FAA filings the bankruptcy case, American Eagle was not properly documenting the weight of baggage, which is part of making sure that weight is properly balanced on the plane.
The five flights discovered by the inspector in Lubbock were grouped together with a total of 154 flights nationwide and sent to the airline as a single notice of violation. The proposed penalty for the 154 flights was a $2.475 million fine.
The violations go well beyond what was observed in Lubbock. One letter from the FAA, published in the bankruptcy case, says American operated more than 14,000 flights that disregarded special safety bulletins known as airworthiness directives.
The FAA chose not to comment for this story but did provide a written statement.
It said in part, "In accordance with deadlines set by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Federal Aviation Administration filed Proofs of Claim to protect the interests of U.S. taxpayers."
It also said, "The documents detail both proposed and potential Civil Penalties in connection with ongoing enforcement cases…" In other words, airlines and the FAA very often negotiate to lower the fines so AA might not have to pay the full $162.7 million that was listed in court this week.
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