American Airlines, safety inspectors end weeklong feud

Published: 8/23/2008 12:00 AM

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration and American Airlines are making love not war after a week of testy statements and counterclaims involving a controversial inspection.

The two had been at odds over an inspection of nine American Eagle planes that resulted in the agency complaining of lax security at O'Hare International Airport and the airline carping about "unorthodox" practices by the TSA.

But Friday, both organizations issued a joint release noting they "share the same security goals."

"The airline is a valued partner and has an excellent overall record for security practices. TSA and American Eagle are working together to achieve the right security results and resolve any security gaps that have occurred," the statement read.

The detente comes after the TSA spoke Thursday of starting an inquiry into security problems involving the airline at O'Hare and possible fines of up to $175,000.

On Tuesday, a TSA inspector used an air temperature probe attached to the exterior of seven unattended American Eagles to hoist himself onto nearby jet bridges and access the planes.

The agency said the employee was acting properly to expose vulnerabilities the aircraft could have to terrorists.

But American officials charged that the inspector's actions could have jeopardized the safety of passengers and crews if it hadn't been noticed by employees. The probe is a sensitive piece of equipment that sends signals to the plane's computers.

After realizing it had been touched, American workers had to recheck the planes before declaring them airworthy, which resulted in 42 delays and inconvenienced hundreds of passengers.

The TSA has acknowledged touching the probe wasn't the best idea and has cautioned inspectors to be careful with exterior equipment on planes.