FAA seeks $1M fine for Horizon Air over door rivets

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The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday a proposed $1 million fine for Horizon Air after concluding the Alaska Air Group unit flew more than 186,000 flights with planes that had security doors not installed according to the agency’s standards.

The FAA said that from December 2007 through June 2011, Horizon flew 22 passenger planes that contained incorrect rivets used to install the doors that keep passengers from the flight deck where pilots sit.

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the number of flights is the reason for such a large penalty.

The company plans to meet with the FAA to discuss the proposed fine, said Horizon Air spokeswoman Bobbie Egan. It has the option to appeal.

The doors were first installed on planes nationwide after Sept. 11, 2001, in an attempt to make cockpits more secure. When Horizon installed the doors on the Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops, it elected to substitute the FAA-required solid rivets with blind rivets on a particular bracket, Egan said.

Rivets are used to bind two pieces of metal together. Blind rivets are tubular, so the tip can be expanded by applying pressure from the other side, through the hollow core.

Keith Mackey, an airline safety and maintenance consultant in Florida, said solid rivets generally are more secure than blind ones.

Blind rivets are often used when workers can’t access both sides of a solid rivet to seal it properly, Mackey said.

Egan said Horizon decided to make the substitution because the blind rivets, in this case, could withstand 20,000 more pounds of pressure per square inch than solid rivets.

Mackey said the strength of the fasteners likely isn’t a major concern in this case.

“Frankly, we’re not talking about a huge deal here,” Mackey said. “A 400-pound guy charging at the door probably wouldn’t break through either rivet.”

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