Carrier Says Agency Sent Mixed Signals On Grounded MD-80s
The Federal Aviation Administration
has more questions for executives at American Airlines, concerning
maintenance practices at the Fort Worth, TX-based carrier.
Last week, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said the agency will meet soon
with the airline, to investigate complaints from a JFK-based
mechanic that American's revised inspection procedures for aircraft
struck by lightning may be inadequate. Two AAL pilots have also
raised concerns, though the anonymous Aviation Safety Action
"Since it has been brought to our attention, we do plan to meet
with American Airlines safety people to discuss the revised
procedures," Dorr said.
An American spokesman wouldn't elaborate what change was made to
the lightning inspection process to warrant the raised eyebrows,
reports The Associated Press. Dorr stressed the meeting shouldn't
be termed an investigation, per se... adding "there is no hint of
any kind of any enforcement action" imminent against American for
If history is any indicator, however... chances are American
officials aren't buying those assurances.
On Friday, the airline sent a letter to Department of
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, regarding last month's
mass-groundings of 300 American Airlines MD-80 narrowbody planes.
In the letter, American says the FAA sent mixed signals regarding
the severity of problems with wiring bundles on the carrier's
In the report, American asserts the wiring issues weren't severe
enough to warrant cancelling over 3,300
flights. The carrier also notes the FAA said it was
American's decision to ground the planes... but also says one FAA
official told the airline "You need to put those aircraft on the
In short, American says the FAA is to blame for the resulting
scheduling chaos; the agency counters it was American's fault for
not properly complying with a 2005 airworthiness directive... that
American helped write, incidentally.
"American failed to take
opportunities available before March 5, 2005, to inspect, repair
and accomplish the [airworthiness directive], as required," the FAA
wrote, adding the agency did not reach any sort of informal
agreement with American for the airline to keep the planes flying
through the inspection process.
That disputes American's claims... which, in turn, echo similar
statements made by Southwest Airlines in March, after the FAA took
that carrier to task for skipping mandatory fatigue inspections on
its oldest Boeing 737-300s. Like American has now, Southwest
asserted it had received permission from the
FAA and Boeing to keep the planes in the
air, performing the required inspections during scheduled
maintenance breaks instead of grounding their fleets.
Despite the apparent disconnect, American adopted a conciliatory
tone towards the FAA in its letter to Secretary Peters...
suggesting the problem lies not necessarily with FAA back-pedaling,
but rather with problems in communication between the
agency and airlines it oversees.