According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), domestic airline United Airlines is facing a $1.3 million penalty for violating FAA rules about shipping hazardous material. The FAA claims that safety inspectors found over 120 violations during a 2013 inspection of United Airlines in the cities of Denver, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Denver’s ABC News 7 station reports that the majority of the 120 violations were minor, and most involved miscommunication with pilots, regarding “accurate information about the weight, quantity, and location on the plane of items.” Additionally, United failed to keep records about the items’s “hazard class” and confirmation records that nothing had leaked during transportation.
Twice, however, FAA inspectors found that United had violated serious regulations against transporting hazardous materials via air shipments.
According to Handy Shipping Guide, United agreed to transport hazardous materials on two separate occasions, which put the crew and passengers at serious risk, and it failed to keep records of these shipments.
The materials transported include “a positive smorgasbord of dangerous goods,” the Shipping Guide states, which included “lithium metal batteries, dry ice, corrosive liquids, radioactive materials, detonating fuses, compressed oxygen, engines, isopropanol, non-flammable aerosols, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide…and printing ink.”
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that United’s violations are being taken very seriously, and that the organization plans on conducting another inspection soon in order to assess United’s safety improvements.
“Knowing exactly what’s on board the aircraft and where it’s located provides the crew with a better chance of safely handling an emergency,” Huerta explained.
Although United’s violation seems particularly dangerous because it is a domestic airline carrying passengers, it’s important to note that many transportation and shipping services have strict guidelines regarding the items that can be carried on board. Although something like printing ink may not seem to be very dangerous, shipping experts carefully compile a lit of prohibited items based on certain chemicals that each item contains. Ultimately, the goal is to create the safest transportation possible.
“Besides the financial penalties and safety reasons, depending on the item it could also be an environmental issue, as a auto shipper it is illegal for us to ship something as common as a household plants in a vehicle due to pest control and local bans on certain plants,” says Jon Krueger of Dependable Auto Shippers.
Luke Punzenberger, the spokesman for United Airlines, has stated that the airline plans on cooperating completely with the FAA throughout the process. Additionally, United has stated that it has made “technological improvements to the pilot notification system” and that it plans on providing better training for employees regarding transportation of hazardous items.