Inspectors Have Until May 30 To Complete Overdue Checks
American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey personally apologized to the
public last week for 3,300 flights cancelled over MD-80 inspection
issues. This week, American has come out swinging at the FAA... and
in the New York Times, no less.
The paper says the airline faces more groundings in coming
weeks, and risks further agency ire by accusing the FAA of changing
long-standing rules on how airworthiness directives are
administered. Specifically, American's MD-80 lead engineer, Greg A.
Magnuson, says the company has traditionally had the leeway to
decide on its own how to resolve ambiguities or conflicts within
ADs, but that's suddenly not being permitted.
In one example, American Airlines officials noted one AD which
involved removing and reusing a bolt and a nut clip, while the
associated parts list showed a bolt and a standard nut. The airline
was cited for using the nut clip.
John Goglia, a maintenance expert and former member of the
National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed the FAA has left
maintenance managers to guess whether procedures allowed in the
past will be accepted today, or result in groundings. Of the
grounding of American's entire MD-80 fleet over issues related to
wire bundles in main gear wells, he told the Times, "...those
airplanes could have flown for the rest of their careers and those
wires would not have been a problem."
Magnuson notes that American
actually helped Boeing write the service bulletin the airline was
later accused of violating.
The FAA now says it will expand its audit of maintenance
procedures to another 10 percent of the roughly 2,300 airwirthiness
directives in effect for airliners. Airlines will apparently be
left without any way to know whether standard procedures from the
past are suddenly violations, which suggests more mass groundings
The agency isn't just targeting airlines,
either -- but also its own inspectors, accused of being overly
friendly with the airlines they oversee. US Transportation
Secretary Mary Peters last week asked for reports within two weeks
from both the FAA and American about how things could have been
The Dallas Morning News reports inspectors overseeing American
have since been given until May 30 to complete 19 overdue checks of
the Fort Worth-based airline's maintenance procedures. American
spokesman Tim Wagner said those inspections should "have a very low
probability of impact as far as operations go."
The Professional Aviation Systems Specialists, which represents
many FAA inspectors, says the agency's deadline puts them in a
bind. "With all of the ... constantly changing priorities, our
inspectors are concerned that there aren't enough of them to handle
the priority of the day," said PASS spokeswoman Kori Blalock
If you have summer travel plans, you'll want to follow this