The FAA proposed a $2.5 million fine against AMR Corp.'s American Eagle Monday, claiming that the Fort Worth-based commuter airline broke federal safety rules by failing to properly calculate the weight of baggage on more than 150 flights.
Federal inspectors found that the airline allowed planes to take off when the baggage weight listed on cargo sheets disagreed with the weight entered into the airline's electronic weight and balance system. That system is used to calculate the weight and balance of the plane along with safe speeds for take-offs and landings.
The FAA also claims that American Eagle flew 39 flights without correcting the problem, even after it was brought to the company's attention.
"The traveling public has to be confident that airlines are following important safety rules," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "When they are not operating to the highest levels of safety, they are subject to stiff fines."
In a statement, an American Eagle spokeswoman, Andrea Huguely, called the proposed penalties, "excessive and inappropriate". Huguely said the airline believes the electronic data entered by baggage handlers was accurate and posed no safety hazard. She said some discrepancies resulted from baggage handlers not recording late bags on paper logs, but that those bags were accurately listed in the electronic system used for calculating take-off weight.
"Eagle has been responsive to all FAA concerns and has collaborated with the FAA to further improve its Weight and Balance system," Huguely said.
Eagle has 30 days to respond to the FAA.
Incorrect takeoff weights are considered a safety hazard if pilots rely on faulty information when determining the right speed for takeoff and landing. Weight and balance of cargo is considered a more significant issue for the kinds of smaller jets typically operated by Eagle and other regional carriers. Eagle often connects passengers from secondary airports to main hub airports served by American Airlines.
The proposed fine comes as American Eagle's parent company, AMR awaits word from the FAA on potential fines related to the 2008 grounding of American Airlines MD-80's over wiring concerns. FAA officials have said the agency is still considering fines in that case.
The Associated Press' David Koenig contributed to this report.