Delta Fined About $1 Million by U.S for Safety Violations

Delta Air Lines Inc. was fined almost $1 million by U.S. regulators for failing to perform repairs on two aircraft.

The second-largest U.S. airline made 20 flights on a Boeing Co. 737 with a chip in its nose cone after being notified of the issue by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector on Feb. 25, 2010, the agency said today in an e-mailed release.

Atlanta-based Delta also made 884 flights between May 25, 2010, and Jan. 3, 2011, on an Airbus SAS A320 that had a broken cockpit light, the FAA charged. Airlines are allowed to defer such repairs for no more than 10 days, according to the release.

In the agency’s release, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta said that for safety’s sake “operators must follow the proper procedures to maintain their aircraft.”

Delta never operated either aircraft unsafely, Ashley Black, an airline spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement.

“Once Delta verified the concerns of the FAA, Delta initiated immediate and necessary actions to ensure that the aircraft were in full compliance with the regulatory requirements,” Black said.

The FAA inspector spotted the damaged nose cone in San Antonio prior to the plane’s departure to Atlanta, according to a May 25 document notifying the airline of the agency’s findings. The agency released the document in an e-mail.

Maintenance Manuals

The damage was deep enough that the underlying fiberglass was visible, according to the document. The jet’s flight crew had earlier conducted an inspection of the plane’s exterior and missed the damage, the FAA charged in the document.

Delta maintenance workers told the inspector they didn’t have to repair the chip. Only after returning to his office three days later did the FAA inspector discover that Delta’s maintenance manuals required that the damage be sealed, according to the document.

The investigation found that the airline’s maintenance crews failed to spot the damage in two additional inspections during the period, it said.

The plane flew to destinations including Mexico City, Miami and Washington. The proposed fine is $687,500, according to the release.

In a separate case, the airline failed to repair a light located over the co-pilot’s seat in the cockpit during a seven-month period, according to a separate letter to Delta.

The proposed fine in that case is $300,000, according to the agency.

Fines are often lowered before final resolution is reached.

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