FAA fines Boeing $12M for fuel tank flammability, other violations

WASHINGTON -- Boeing has agreed to pay $12 million for failing to meet a deadline to submit service instructions that would enable airlines to reduce the risk of fuel tank explosions on hundreds of planes, among other violations, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

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Boeing must also take a series of actions to improve the safety certification of its planes and its aircraft production quality control, the FAA said in a statement. The settlement is the second largest for regulatory violations in the history of the FAA.

"It is imperative that everyone complies with our aviation system's high safety standards," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Boeing said in a statement that the fine "fairly" addresses the matter.

"As a company we take responsibility for our actions, and we will never compromise on our commitment to quality and compliance," the statement said.

The fuel tank instructions are part of an effort to address problems that caused a Boeing 747 fuel tank to explode over the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, New York, in 1996. All 230 people aboard TWA Flight 800 were killed.

In 2008, the FAA published regulations that required manufacturers to develop design changes and service instructions for installing systems to reduce fuel tank flammability. The regulations gave manufacturers until Dec. 27, 2010, to submit service instructions for FAA approval. The instructions were to explain how to install systems that would replace the oxygen in airplane fuel tanks with non-flammable nitrogen gas, reducing the risk of explosion.

Boeing missed the deadline for submitting service instructions for the 747s by 301 days, delivering them to the FAA on Oct. 24, 2011.

Another violation involved Boeing's delay in addressing incorrectly shaped fasteners used on airliners, the FAA said. In September 2008, Boeing discovered that it had been installing the incorrect fasteners in 777 airliners.

The FAA alleges that Boeing repeatedly submitted action plans that set deadlines for fixing the problem, but subsequently failed to implement those plans. Boeing finally implemented a plan to address the fastener issue in November 2010, more than two years after the company first learned of the problem.

The FAA first proposed fining Boeing $13.6 million for the fuel tank violations in 2012, and $2.7 million for the fastener problem in 2013.

Besides those issues, the final $12 million settlement also includes matters involving "allegations of delays in submitting required safety information, production quality control problems, and failures to implement corrective actions for those production problems." The agency didn't provide further explanation of those issues.

The FAA said it "does not allege that these issues created unsafe conditions."



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