The Chicago-based carrier is accused of operating flights on Boeing 777 aircraft that were not airworthy for over three years, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday that it planned to fine United Airlines more than $1.1 million for the alleged violations.
The accusations come from United Airlines’ decision to remove one of the necessary maintenance inspections from the 777’s mandated Preflight Check List in June 2018. According to United, the modification was approved by the FAA and the check was redundant.
The Fire System Warning Check was not brought back by United Airlines until April 2021, when the FAA intervened and ordered United to have pilots perform the check as part of their preflight preparations.
“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.
The airline United Airlines has 30 days to reply to the accusations.
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.”
According to a spokeswoman, the airline is still considering the potential penalty and has not yet reacted to the FAA.
United currently flies 97 Boeing 777s, including the -200, 200ER (extended range), and stretched 777-300, according to official data provided by the airline.
In 2008, United temporarily grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 777s after discovering that its mechanics had neglected to perform a normal inspection of a fire-suppression system in the aircraft’s cargo hold.
And in September 2021, after it was discovered that it had neglected to conduct a necessary inspection on the leading-edge wing panels on these aircraft, United was compelled to ground 25 of its Boeing 777s.