Alaska Airlines agrees to pay $500,000 over 2010 cockpit fire

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2014 6:25 PM

(Reuters) - Alaska Airlines has agreed to pay $500,000 in civil penalty claims after an electrical fire ignited in a Boeing 737-400 cockpit in 2010 while it was parked at a gate in Anchorage, the Justice Department said on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration's probe into the incident found the fire was caused by chafed wiring from an improperly positioned metal clamp that attaches an air hose to an overhead panel, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.

The U.S. carrier, owned by Alaska Air Group, told the FAA after its own investigation in April 2010 that aircraft maintenance task cards had "directed" maintenance provider AAR Corporation to remove the cockpit panel during maintenance in July and August 2008.

But it failed to include a maintenance manual warning of the possibility of an electrical fire if the clamp was not positioned properly, Durkan said.

"Alaska Airlines has an uncompromising commitment to safety and compliance," said Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Halley Knigge. "We put the safety of our passengers, our employees and our aircraft above all else."

Following the event, Alaska maintenance technicians inspected all 737-400 aircraft to ensure precise placement of the clamp and inspected the surrounding area for signs of wire chafing, Knigge said.

The FAA wrote in a 2011 letter to the carrier that it had violated regulations by flying the aircraft involved in the 2010 incident and nine other planes with incorrect or improperly placed parts, and had assessed a $590,000 civil penalty against the airline.

The case was referred to the U.S. Attorney's office in the Western District of Washington, which reached the settlement agreement through discussions with Alaska Airlines.

Alaska has 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.

Under the settlement, Alaska denies all legal responsibility.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)