$6.4 M proposed civil penalty for Lufthansa meant to send a safety message?!?

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A proposed $6.4 M civil penalty is extraordinary in this FAA policy regimen which stresses compliance [1]over punishment. Add to that, an FAA sanction against a foreign air carrier, highly unusual, makes the event more exemplary. What is the source of this regulatory vehemence[2]?

There are several FAA requirements which appear to the regulated to be superfluous or even unwarranted. That perspective is myopic, at best, and a severe disregard of safety, at worst. Within the article are words and facts which may not be visible, to the average reader, as signs of callous safety attitude and which are incendiary to the safety professionals.

FAA calls Lufthansa skirting of operating approvals “blatant”

Proposes $6.4 million civil penalty

Eric Kulisch 22 hours ago


(Photo Credit: Flickr/Christian Juncker Photography)

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s disregard for conduct flights at unauthorized airports is the worst case[3] the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has seen involving an airline operating outside its specified authority, according to an agency spokesman.

Last week, the FAA announced its intent to fine the German carrier $6.4 million for allegedly conducting almost 900 flights in and out of San Diego International and Philadelphia International airports between March 22, 2018, and May 27 of this year, even though Lufthansa knew it lacked FAA authorization to do so.

Under FAA regulations, foreign airlines operating in the U.S. must create detailed operating specifications and follow any procedures contained in them. Lufthansa’s operating rights didn’t permit it to fly to San Diego and Philadelphia at the time, but the FAA charges that the airline knowingly did so anyway.










Figure 12-1A, Preapplication Fact-Gathering Job Aid

Foreign airlines can only conduct scheduled flights through airports that are listed in their FAA-issued Operations Specifications, and the FAA alleges neither airport was in Lufthansa’s Operations Specifications.

“We are not aware of any previous case where an air carrier allegedly violated this aspect of their Ops Spec in such a blatant manner,” an FAA spokesman told FreightWaves in a Dec. 2 email.

Following operating specifications is important to ensure that a carrier’s fleet is capable of landing at and taking off from a particular airport, and having approved airports listed in an airline’s profile enables the FAA to perform scheduled ramp inspections of aircraft, he said.

However, a ramp inspection[4] is less likely to occur if the aircraft is flying into or out of an airport that is not designated in the carrier’s operations specifications for scheduled flights, the spokesman said. Lufthansa likely was caught because of a random inspection or because it experienced an incident at one of the locations that was brought to the attention of authorities.

The FAA said Lufthansa conducted about 600 unauthorized flights with Airbus A340 aircraft from Frankfurt to San Diego and about 292 flights to Philadelphia with Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft without pre-approval.

“Lufthansa is fully cooperating with the FAA on this matter and will be addressing the regulatory issues involved with the Agency,” the company said in a statement. “Lufthansa is globally committed to compliance with all laws and regulations. There are no allegations raised by the FAA that the security or safety of any flights was compromised in any respect. The safety and security of our passengers remains the highest priority of the Lufthansa Group.”


An OPS SPEC is not just a notice that triggers a ramp inspection; identifying a city/airport that the foreign carrier intends future service triggers the review by the Principal with responsibility for that P129 carrier.





















If Lufthansa requested an amendment to its OPS SPECS to include San Diego (as required), the FAA would have required LH pilots who fly that route to receive special training for approaches and departures. The reason for this added education about the ATC procedures is known by all of the LH pilots; for their union once published a list of “Black Diamond Airports” and Lindbergh International was on that ranking, which is no longer public. A current US pilot site puts its top ten in US—”9. SAN – San Diego International Airport (San Diego)

“Flying into any busy airport can be challenging, but San Diego International’s steep approach path that brings pilots over the city and strong tailwinds in the area create an even bigger landing challenge.”



[full video]

Contrary to the LH spokesperson’s comments, OPS SPECS do, indeed, have a safety nexus and contrary to the FAA spokesperson it is not a ramp check. So many of the paperwork requirements appear to have administrative tasks. Unfortunately, it is not within the competence or authority of a certificate holder to distinguish between those rules with safety consequences and those purely ministerial in nature.

OPS SPECS to San Diego is an example of paperwork that matters, a lesson for all of the regulated.  The $6.4M civil penalty was meant, one could suppose, to signal to all certificate holders that compliance is not a matter of choice.







[1] This action appears to be such an outlier that it causes one to pause to wonder if

2See FN 3

3 This is a VERY strong statement which not found in the FAA press release. It would be very interesting to see who made such an unauthorized statement.

[4] From a safety perspective, ramp inspections are less important as a precondition than the PIC special airport training required.

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