Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
The Federal Aviation Administration has fined New York area airports $3.5 million for failing to train firefighters and aircraft-rescue personnel.
The settlement announced Monday with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey covers JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.
The problems documented in a 25-page agreement between the FAA and the Port Authority focused on how the authority instructed the agency's police department to oversee rescue and firefighting. Under the settlement, the Port Authority will create a separate chain of command and training for rescue and firefighters.
Every day during 2011 and the first half of 2012, JFK failed to ensure that rescue and firefighting personnel were adequately trained, according to the settlement. For a month in May and June 2012, JFK had 77 police officers serving 357 rescue and firefighting shifts without proper training, according to the settlement.
During 2011 and the first half of 2012, the Port Authority also failed to ensure proper training for rescue and firefighters for 341 days at LaGuardia and 378 days at Newark, according to the settlement.
"These violations were egregious, and they will not be tolerated," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The Port Authority adopted new operating procedures and training after an FAA inspection revealed the training lapses. The Port Authority hired its first chief security officer, Joe Dunne, and recruited a former New York City fire commissioner, Tom Von Essen, to review rescue and firefighting operations, according to Lisa MacSpadden, a port spokeswoman.
"We are also launching a nationwide search for a new fire chief and fire captains to lead a stand-alone" firefighting force, MacSpadden said.
Fines for the violations, which are similar to those found a decade earlier at the airports, could have reached nearly $15 million, according to the FAA.
But the Port Authority agreed to pay its fine within a month. If there is another violation, the FAA will impose a $1.5 million fine and $27,500 fines daily for each violation.
"We expect all airports to comply with our safety regulations and to correct any deficiencies immediately," LaHood said.
Under the agreement, the Port Authority will:
-- Create a force of personnel for aircraft rescue and firefighting, without additional duties as police officers.
-- Assign to the force a fire chief, who reports directly to the Aviation Department, by March 31 2014.
-- Develop 75 hours of training to join the force and 40 hours of recurring training annually.
"We expect the Port Authority to have trained safety personnel to ensure the safety of the traveling public and airport personnel, just like we have at all airports in the United States," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.