The Associated Press reported recently that the Federal Aviation Administration is seeking to fine Wal-Mart $50,000 for improperly transporting by air a shipment containing dry chemical fire extinguishers in an Airborn Express flight from Hermiston, OR to Seymour, IN. According to the FAA, the fire extinguishers were not packaged properly, nor labeled or described as required by federal law. Some of the nonflammable material in one container leaked out and was visibly noticed by a ground crew member of Airborn Express. Wal-Mart’s response? “We take this matter very seriously and are cooperating with the FAA fully on this.” The FAA also went after Sears for using Airborn Express to ship a garden tractor battery containing corrosive materials and explosive gases.
The FAA has reportedly increased its hazardous inspections program in the wake of the 1996 crash of a Valujet airlineer that was attributed to mislabeled oxygen canisters, which allegedly caused a fire on the plane. Wal-Mart told reporters “We safely ship thousands of cases of merchandise every day.” Apparently, sometimes they don’t.