FAA Investigating American Airlines Repairs To Its Fleet Of MD-80s

Friday, September 4th 2009, 3:33 pm
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa's largest employer, American Airlines is under investigation.  The FAA probe is focused on repairs to a fleet of older aircraft, the MD-80s. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the carrier rushed to retire one of those planes to avoid inspection.  Aging airplanes are at the center of an investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into repairs to the rear bulkhead of 16 American Airlines' MD-80 airplanes.

Airplanes expand and contract when the cabins are pressurized for takeoff and landing. This fatigues the metal which can leave the rear bulkheads in need of repairs.   

A Wall Street Journal report reveals the FAA's investigation led to suspicions that American retired a plane to keep it from inspection. 

However, American spokesman Roger Frizzel told the Associated Press that the plane was retired for economic reasons. 

The MD-80s are being phased out and replaced with new and more fuel efficient planes.  

As of May, American Airlines web site says it owns 270 MD-80 series jets or 44 percent of its fleet. 

Tim Wagner with American issued the following statement to The News On 6:

"The FAA has provided American Airlines the opportunity to respond to its investigation and we are in the process of doing so. American Airlines is following the FAA process provided for in its investigation, and we believe conversations outside of that process are inconsistent with FAA regulations.

"We believe the Wall Street Journal's unnamed source's allegations misrepresent the facts. The FAA has complete access to retired airplanes - and it exercises that access frequently. All airlines have the authority to make decisions regarding the retirement of individual aircraft based on economic and competitive factors."

He went on to say American believes the Wall Street Journal's unnamed source misrepresented the facts.

Wagner says the FAA has complete access to retired airplanes.

The Wall Street Journal also reported the FAA inspected jets that may have possibly flown for years with potentially improper fasteners and poorly repaired structural cracks. 

He said American discovered the problems and self reported that information to the FAA.

Wagner says American is responding to the FAA's investigation but he declined further comment.