The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday accepted $400,000 from Braniff Airways as a settlement for aviation safety violations the FAA had charged Braniff with in 1978 and 1979.

The settlement, announced by the FAA's regional office in Dallas, where Braniff is headquartered, brings to a conclusion the most expensive safety case in FAA history in terms of money sought. When the FAA announced its intention to fine Braniff in November 1979, it sought $1.5 million.

At the same time yesterday, the FAA said that it is easing an extraordinary surveillance of Braniff's maintenance practices. C. R. Melugin, regional FAA chief, said he is "satisfied at this time that the pattern of recurring deficiencies in Braniff's maintenance and inspection system has been corrected . . ."

Braniff said it was making the payment "under protest." John J. Casey, Braniff's president and chairman, said, "Braniff believes it would prevail on the FAA charges, but we felt it was better to settle these old matters at this time rather than incur the substantial burden of legal fees and lost time by maintenance and management personnel if we were forced to litigate these allegations in court."

The FAA had charged that many Braniff flights were made with aircraft not properly repaired after being damaged in such incidents as exploding tires. n