Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have overhauled maintenance procedures, but neither airline appears ready to pay the huge fines federal regulators are seeking. "The instructions are gone over with a fine-tooth comb before the work is even done," says an American spokesman regarding FAA directives for electrical wiring on MD-80s, while Southwest has instituted compliance teams and spent nearly $1 million to rewrite maintenance manuals. With all the changes they've made, the airlines believe the FAA is overreaching in levying fines that could reach $30 million. "It's not defiant to assert your legal rights and defend yourselves against a penalty that isn't fair or equitable based upon the facts," says an official at Southwest, which has been contesting a $10.2 million fine since last March.

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