FAA to Fine Continental Over Plane's Landing Gear

The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday proposed fining Continental Airlines $325,000 for operating a plane on at least a dozen flights without fixing a problem with its landing gear.

The crew of a Continental Boeing 737 flying from Houston to Los Angeles in December 2008 saw a warning light related to the plane's right main landing gear, but decided after discussing the problem with the airline's maintenance department to continue the flight, the FAA said. After takeoff, the flight wound up being diverted to Phoenix after the crew noticed the plane was burning excessive fuel, the agency said.

On the ground, Continental maintenance workers inspected the landing gear but did not make a required entry in the plane's maintenance log or any other maintenance record about the abnormal landing gear indication, FAA said.

The airline wound up operating the plane on at least 12 more passenger flights before mechanics addressed the problem with the landing gear, a violation of federal regulations, the agency said.

"Air carriers cannot let maintenance issues lapse," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. "When a problem is discovered, it needs to be corrected immediately."

Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark disagreed with FAA's characterization of the incident.

"This matter involves the aircraft logbook, which we believe was accurate," Clark said. "No actual maintenance was required on the aircraft, which was diverted to Phoenix because of head winds, not maintenance."

The airline has 30 days to respond to the FAA.