American Airlines put its passengers at risk and violated multiple federal air safety regulations in 2003 by allowing one of its jets to fly with a leaky fuel tank, according to a civil complaint filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn.
The complaint, which was made public on Thursday, seeks more than $1 million in penalties against the airline.
American spokesman Tim Wagner declined to discuss the complaint, saying lawyers for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline had not had a chance to review it.
The complaint alleges that on Nov. 17, 2003, a Federal Aviation Administration inspector was a passenger on an American flight from Orlando, Fla., to New York's La Guardia Airport when he saw fuel leaking from a wing of the McDonnell Douglas MD-82.
The inspector warned the flight crew about the leak and demanded it be recorded in the aircraft's maintenance log. However, "no such entry was made by the pilot or maintenance personnel," the complaint said.
American allowed the "unsafe and un-airworthy" jet to take 53 commercial flights over two weeks before it was repaired during a regularly scheduled maintenance check, the complaint said.
During that period, the "aircraft was operated in a careless and reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another," the complaint said.