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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 5, 2014

Alaska Airlines Agrees to Pay $500,000 to Settle FAA Civil Penalty Investigation

Federal Aviation Administration Resolves Civil Claims Against Alaska Airlines, Inc.

            Alaska Airlines, Inc. (Alaska) has agreed to pay the United States $500,000 to settle civil penalty claims that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has pursued on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

            This action arose out of an incident on January 18, 2010 in which an electrical fire ignited in the ceiling of the cockpit of an Alaska Boeing 737-400 while it was parked at the gate in Anchorage, Alaska.  FAA’s investigation indicated that the fire was caused by chafed wiring that resulted from an improperly positioned metal clamp that attaches an air hose to one of the overhead panels in the cockpit.

            Based on its own investigation, Alaska informed FAA in April 2010 that its maintenance task cards for the aircraft “directed” its maintenance provider, AAR Corporation (AAR), to remove the cockpit panel at issue during maintenance in July and August 2008, but failed to include the warning from Alaska’s Maintenance Manual, which specifically warned that an electrical fire could occur if the clamp was not positioned properly.  Alaska also determined that the incorrect clamp or part was used and/or the clamp was installed improperly on additional aircraft, which resulted in chafed wiring on one aircraft.

            By letter dated July 15, 2011, FAA informed Alaska that it violated multiple FAA regulations by operating the aircraft involved in the January 18, 2010 incident, as well as nine other aircraft with incorrect clamps or parts and/or improperly positioned clamps.  Based on these findings, FAA assessed a $590,000 civil penalty against Alaska.  Alaska has since disputed that AAR or its other maintenance providers reinstalled or repositioned the clamp on its Boeing 737-400 aircraft, including the aircraft involved in the January 18, 2010 incident.  Pursuant to the parties’ settlement, Alaska denies all legal fault and responsibility.

            “Civil enforcement actions are an important tool to ensure the FAA’s mission to provide safe air travel,” stated U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “I am pleased we were able to bring a positive resolution to this matter.”

                Government agencies supporting and/or participating in the successful resolution of this matter include: FAA Office of Chief Counsel and FAA Northwest Mountain Region Office of Regional Counsel.

Updated March 20, 2015