For Immediate Release

Release No. ASW 12-01
June 21, 2001
Contact: John Clabes
Phone: (405) 954-7500

FORT WORTH — The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed to assess a $1 million civil penalty against American Airlines for alleged violation of regulations dealing with battery and battery charger maintenance, and for continuing to operate an aircraft after being warned that batteries installed on it might not meet federal regulations.

The batteries in question provide electricity to power floor lighting that leads passengers to exits during an emergency evacuation of the aircraft.

The FAA said safety inspections at several American Airlines facilities revealed that incorrect chargers and chargers with broken or inoperative cables were being used to charge and store emergency exit path lighting batteries. In addition, the battery chargers had not undergone initial and recurrent maintenance checks specified in American's maintenance manuals. The FAA said that batteries serviced with these chargers were of "unknown" reliability. The same problems were found at American's main battery shop, the FAA said.

In the civil penalty letter to American, the FAA cited 197 instances were the company failed to ensure employees followed manuals. Those manuals contain procedures to follow to make sure that overhauled chargers for emergency track lighting batteries were the correct chargers and that they had been properly tested before use. Some of these violations, the FAA alleged, continued after American was advised of the infractions.

Subsequently, eight batteries of unknown serviceability were installed on one of its aircraft. The aircraft was operated on 41 revenue flights when the aircraft was not in an airworthy condition. After the FAA placed American on notice that the batteries might not meet requirements, American operated the aircraft on an additional 157 revenue flights. In fact, the FAA alleged, when the batteries were finally removed, five were discarded as unusable.

American Airlines has requested an informal conference.

This announcement is made in accordance with the FAA's practice of releasing information to the public on newly issued enforcement actions involving penalties of $50,000 or more.