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FAA Fines Aviation Technical Services (ATS)

Old 09-12-2011, 02:36 PM
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Default FAA Fines Aviation Technical Services (ATS)

From Seattle Times:

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $1.1 million fine against Aviation Technical Services (ATS), an airplane maintenance and repair company based at Paine Field in Everett, for allegedly making improper repairs to 44 Boeing 737-300s operated by Southwest Airlines.
The civil penalty, which ATS may appeal, relates to maintenance conducted on Southwest jets that were returned to service between Dec. 1, 2006 and Sept.18, 2009.
The agency alleges ATS failed to accomplish all the work required by three FAA airworthiness directives aimed at finding and repairing fatigue cracks in the fuselage skins of the planes to avoid ruptures of the fuselage.
Last April, a Southwest Airlines 737 with 142 people on board suffered a severe fuselage rupture on a flight from Oakland to San Diego, Calif. A skin panel tore open along a splice joint, creating a hole five feet long and nine inches wide and depressuring the cabin at 34,000 feet. The pilot made an emergency landing in Yuma, Ariz., and no serious injuries were reported.
That specific plane was not worked on by ATS, but the incident sparked an FAA emergency directive mandating a detailed inspection of Southwest's entire 737 fleet and all other 737-300s, -400s and -500s in service.
In a letter sent to ATS in August and made public Monday, the FAA alleges that ATS mechanics inspecting and repairing the skin panels didn't follow proper procedures when they failed to install fasteners in all the rivet holes within a specified window of time dictated by the drying time of the required sealant.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement Monday said "improper work that compromises safety is not acceptable."
"Passengers have the right to expect the nation's airlines to operate properly-maintained airplanes," LaHood said.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said "aircraft can be operated safely for many years if all the maintenance work is performed properly," but added that "it is critical to follow all the required steps."
ATS in a statement said that it is "cooperating fully with the FAA," and that its systems and procedures "meet or exceed" industry standards for airplane maintenance.
This is the second major fine within a year proposed by the FAA related to 737 maintenance by ATS.
Last October, the FAA proposed a fine of more than $500,000 on ATS for shortcomings in its maintenance procedures related to inspections of 14 Boeing 737 jets owned by Southwest to detect fuselage skin cracks.
In that instance, the FAA said ATS used shortened "cradles" to support the aircraft while they were off their wheels — a deviation from Southwest's FAA-approved maintenance program — and also failed to install measuring equipment to ensure the maximum loads on the jet's engines, wings and horizontal tails did not exceed set limits while the aircraft were suspended in the cradles.
In the late 1990s the ATS facility — which was then under different ownership and known by the name Tramco and later as B.F. Goodrich — was repeatedly cited for shoddy work by FAA inspectors.
In a series of internal memos and correspondence with company officials beginning in early 1998, FAA safety staff pointed to lax management practices and failure to follow accepted standards, as well as incomplete inspections and policies that put delivery deadlines ahead of safety.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or [email protected]

Business & Technology | FAA fines Everett's ATS $1.1M over 737 repairs | Seattle Times Newspaper
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