American Airlines fined $7.1M

The fines did not rack up overnight. The FAA strated looking into drug and maintenance issues with the airline in 2005.

Over a two year period 35 American employees tested positive for drugs and alcohol and were not properly retested, a group that included a pilot, eight mechanics and 26 flight attendants. The FAA has proposed a $1.7 million fine for the drug testing violations.

The aircraft maintenance violations have to do with two of the airline's MD83 aircrafts and their autopilot systems. The FAA said American let one of the planes take off 18 times knowing the autopilot system had failed, and 10 of those times happened after the airline promised to fix the problem. The largest part of the fine, $4.5 million, is for these violations.

"I have never seen such blatent violations," ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson said. "They know you're not supposed to fly an aircraft with a malfuctioning autopilot; that is the heart of the airplane."

The FAA has also proposed a $1 million fine because escape path lights on one of the planes did not work and American did not inspect them as often as they should have.

American Airlines passengers had mixed reactions Thursday to the fines and violations.

"In the grand scheme of things, it's a small perventage, given the number of good employees, I trust the rest and obviously the system worked - someone caught them," Steve Daycock said.

American Airlines issued a statement Thursday afternoon, responding to the FAA's allegations. They said they "did not agree with the FAA's findings and and characterizations of American's action" and they felt that the proposed penalties were excessive. American has requested a meeting with the FAA.

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