Throwing in the Towel: FAA Fines US Airways $5.4 Million for Such Violations As Using A Towel Instead of an Oil Cap in Engine

200px-US_Airways_Logo.svgTowelieUS Airways is facing a major fine over a wide range of safety and maintenance violations on its airplanes. The one that caught my eye was a plane in December 2007 that returned to Denver with a low oil-pressure warning. Mechanics appear to have lost the caps for the oil sump so they just stuffed towels in the openings.

While this is roughly half of the fine of Southwest airlines last year, it reaffirms concerns among passengers that airlines are skimping on maintenance as they cut back on virtually every other comfort in air travel. It could also prove a legal problem in any air accident for the company. A report of this kind invites expanded discovery in a torts or criminal case.

US Air is accused of missing inspections and flying nearly 1,700 flights on eight planes that were not in compliance with FAA regulations from May 2008 to January 2009.

It appears that sticking towels in engine parts is not an FAA-approved maintenance technique.

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6 thoughts on “Throwing in the Towel: FAA Fines US Airways $5.4 Million for Such Violations As Using A Towel Instead of an Oil Cap in Engine”

  1. I’m sure the fine will be “negotiated” down to US$1 million or less, just like the Southwest fine was. Meanwhile FAA perpetually blames the victim, and NTSB covers for FAA. FAA is still the same “Tombstone Agency” decried by former USDOT Inspector General Mary Schiavo in her Congressional testimony years ago. Though presidential administrations changed within the last year, we now know that college drop-out J. Randall (Randy) Babbitt is as much of an abject aviation safety failure as his ignoble FAA Administrator predecessors Bobby Sturgell, Lynne Osmus, and Marion Blakey. There remains no meaningful regulation of aviation safety in this country – just an aero-mercantile puppet like Randy Babbitt acting at the behest of the airlines, ATA, and fat aero-contractors. Like a caddy. Like a Fendi. Like a submissive. Babbitt’s aeromerc masters will make certain that Babbitt and others in FAA management have a feathered nest upon their exit from the agency. That’s the deal. Babbitt’s recent protestations notwithstanding, FAA and Babbitt continue to blame everyone but themselves to deflect and distract attention from their cozy private-dancer status with their true customers the airlines, vendors, and other aeromercs. The American people are sick of it, and applaud the courage of those people and communities who stand up for what is right.
    John J. Tormey III, Esq.
    Quiet Rockland

  2. Apparently the rag incident occurred aboard a United flight (not US Airways)in 2008, but the rags were inserted in 2007. The sump caps are only required during maintenance, not in flight, according to the following website. It appears the issue was self-reported and the mistake was just that and not due to corporate malfeasance. Veritas supra omnis.


  3. The jet turbine engine oil tanks are pressurized to ensure that there is always oil at the inlet to the oil pump. Without its cap the engine will blow all its oil out of the tank. Because, once in a great while, a mechanic will forget to reinstall the cap after checking the oil level or adding oil, it is known that the engines will run for some minutes without oil (10 to 20) but usually requires an engine change after running without oil for any length of time, especially at flight power.

    I suspect that it wasn’t an experienced mechanic that did the towel thing but a ramp service person who had minimal training to take over the mechanics’ job of gate pushback and oil service.

    Corporate cost cutting at its best.

  4. Sound like a Redneck toolbox. Duct Tape, WD-40 and Beer. What else do you need to fix something?

    When its supposed to move and doesn’t use WD40 and when it moves and shouldn’t use Duct Tape. But of course you the the Beer Primer should be applied first.

  5. I suspect they put the rag in hole after adding some oil (then turning the engine over for a second to get a better level reading) and forgot to put the cap back on.

    I’ll bet they didn’t mean to use a rag instead of a cap.

  6. While cutting corners could be the work of a rogue mechanics, I suspect the problem lies in corporate pressure to keep the planes in the air. If this be the case, the powers that be should be facing more than a mere fine.

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