FAA proposes $655,125 in fines for Alaska Air Group

FAA proposes $655,125 in fines for Alaska Air Group
Horizon Bombardier Q400

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to fine the Alaska Air Group more than $655,000 for alleged safety violations by Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines, officials said.

In the case of Horizon Air, the FAA said maintenance crews failed to comply with an 'airworthiness directive' issued in March 2011. The new rule required inspection every 300 hours for cracked or corroded engine nacelle fittings on Dash-8-400 aircraft.  The FAA accused Horizon of flying one of its Dash-8s 45 times in violation of the new directive. Each flight is a violation and the fines add up to $445,125.

In the case of Alaska Airlines, The F-A-A said crews allegedly failed to properly document and tag deactivated systems and equipment before making repairs. The FAA alleges that between June 19, 2010, and January 13, 2011, Alaska performed maintenance on six of its Boeing 737 airplanes 10 different times, but failed to document the alternative actions it took. Each alleged violation is subject to a fine, adding up to $210,000. 

In a written statement to KOMO News, Alaska Air Group spokesman Bobbie Egan said that the required inspections were performed on the Horizon aircraft in question, but the work was not properly documented due to a misunderstanding over wording on the work order. The aircraft was immediately removed from service the day after the inspection when we realized we had incorrectly documented the work," Egan said. "The aircraft was re-inspected and found to be in proper order."

Egan also said the Alaska Airlines violations stemmed from improper documentation as well.  "In these instances, Alaska performed the required maintenance work according to the aircraft manufacturer’s specifications; however, we did not properly document the alternate procedure," Egan said. The aircraft was immediately removed from service the day after the inspection when we realized we had incorrectly documented the work," Egan said. "The aircraft was re-inspected and found to be in proper order."

Egan went on to say that the company has "an uncompromising commitment to safety and compliance" and that it is working with the FAA to resolve the complaints.  The FAA gave the airlines 30 days to respond to the complaint.

As for whether these violations put the public in any danger, KOMO News spoke with aviation expert Steve Danishek. He examined the FAA complaints against both airlines, and tells us that based on what the FAA wrote, the public was never in any danger. These were "paperwork violations", not "safety violations", said Danishek.

"Today it's Alaska and Horizon, tomorrow it'll be another airline, yesterday it was two or three other airlines". As for the huge fines proposed by the FAA,  "it'll be reduced to a fraction of the amount ($655,125) with a reprimand letter and the airline's assurance that it will never happen again", said Danishek.