Scrutiny of Engines Could Increase Maintenance Costs

Federal aviation safety regulators recommend that airlines step up inspections of some jet engines, which could push up maintenance costs at major airlines.

The recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board follows a June 2 incident in which a General Electric engine on an American Airlines Boeing 767 failed during a maintenance run at Los Angeles International Airport. Debris flew from the engine and punctured the airplane's fuel tanks, starting a fire and damaging the wing and fuselage. Some debris was found 2,500 feet from the plane. No one was hurt.

Soon afterward, the Federal Aviation Administration required airlines to more frequently remove, inspect and maintain the engines, used mostly on the Boeing 767, 747 and MD-11 and the Airbus A300 and A310.

The NTSB recommendation, however, would require even more frequent engine inspections. It is being considered by the FAA, which could require airlines to adhere to the more stringent requirements, said Roland Herwig, a spokesman.

"We put out our airworthiness directive based on the best available data," he said. "We'll review the (NTSB) recommendation and get back to them as quickly as possible."

American Airlines officials said they are following the FAA requirements.

"We think the FAA directive is a prudent directive," said John Hotard, a spokesman for American Airlines, based in Fort Worth. "We're certainly in compliance with what the FAA requires."

Hotard did not comment on the NTSB recommendation, which would increase maintenance costs because the engines would be out of service almost twice as often for inspections and repairs.

American, like other carriers, has been working to cut its maintenance costs.

Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, said carriers always work closely with the FAA on safety issues.

"We appreciate the NTSB's research in the matter," she said.

NTSB officials said the issue is urgent.

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