FAA seeks $1M penalty for Boeing 777 problem

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 5:16 PM
FAA seeks $1M penalty for Boeing 777 problem

The Federal Aviation Administration is pursuing a penalty of more than $1 million against Boeing Co. because it says the airplane maker didn't follow its own instructions for installing oxygen systems on the 777.

The instruction turned out to be unnecessary and Boeing deleted it, a Boeing spokeswoman said.

The FAA said on Monday that it found the problems when it inspected nine new planes between April and October 2010. Hoses for the passenger oxygen system were installed at a sharper angle than allowed, the FAA said. The system feeds the masks that allow passengers to get oxygen if the cabin loses pressure in flight.

Boeing spokeswoman Alana Broadbent said the hose would have had a 2 degree bend if installed according to instructions. Because the instructions were unclear, some were bent as much as 10 degrees, she said.

However, Boeing tested the hoses and found no problem even when they were bent as much as 10 degrees and put under double the pressure they needed to withstand. So, instead of requiring a 2-degree angle, Boeing just deleted the instruction because it's not possible to install the part at more than a 10 degree angle anyway, she said.

She said that other 777s in the factory were inspected. Because there was no safety problem with the hoses, 777s that had been made previously were not re-inspected, she said. For the same reason, Boeing did not issue a service bulletin, which advises airplane operators to inspect or fix problems discovered after a plane has entered service.

The FAA said it can charge $25,000 for each mistake, and it counts as a new mistake every time the mis-installed part passed inspection. There were 46 such inspections, which would have totaled $1.15 million if FAA sought the maximum penalty for each one. The FAA offered to compromise with Boeing for $1.05 million.

The FAA said Boeing had failed to correct a known problem in installing the system.

"There is no excuse for waiting to take action when it comes to safety," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The FAA proposed the penalty in a June 3 letter which it publicized on Monday. Boeing has 30 days from the date of the letter to respond.

An FAA spokesman wasn't sure of the last time the agency sought civil penalties from Boeing. The last publicized fine on the FAA's website was in 2002 when it sought $344,450 in civil penalties for installing various parts improperly, or for using unapproved parts. The violations were from the 1990s through April 2000.

Boeing shares rose 36 cents to $71.62.