The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Monday that it intends to fine United Airlines more than $1.1 million over allegations the Chicago-based carrier operated flights on Boeing 777 aircraft that were not airworthy for nearly three years.
The allegations stem from a decision in June 2018 by United Airlines to axe one of the required maintenance checks from the 777’s mandatory Preflight Check List because, United claims, the check was redundant and the change had been cleared by the FAA.
United Airlines did not reinstate the Fire System Warning Check until April 2021 when the FAA intervened and told United to get pilots to carry out the check as part of their preflight activities.
“Removal of the check resulted in United’s failure to perform the required check and the operation of aircraft that did not meet airworthiness requirements,” the FAA said in a statement explaining the hefty $1,149,306 civil penalty.
United Airlines has been given 30 days to respond to the allegations.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said: “The safety of our flights was never in question. In 2018 United changed its pre-flight checklist to account for redundant built-in checks performed automatically by the 777.”
“The FAA reviewed and approved the checklist change at the time it was done,” the statement continued.
“In 2021, the FAA informed United that United’s maintenance program called for the pre-flight check by pilots. Once confirmed, United immediately updated its procedures.”
A spokesperson said the airline had not yet responded to the FAA and is still reviewing the proposed penalty.
According to official data supplied by the airline, United currently operates 97 Boeing 777s, including the -200, longer range 200ER (extended range) and the stretched 777-300.
In 2008, United briefly grounded its entire Boeing 777 fleet after it discovered that its mechanics were not carrying out a routine check of a fire-suppression device in the aircraft cargo hold.
The device was a bottle containing an oxygen-eliminating gas that is designed to suppress a fire within the cargo hold. United blamed manufacturer Boeing for accidentally omitting the test from an operations manual update.
And in September 2021, United was forced to ground 25 of its Boeing 777s after it was discovered that it failed to perform a required inspection on the leading-edge wing panels on these aircraft.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.