But Carriers Still Wary Of Agency's Motives
The recent voluntary grounding of
regional jets by Atlantic Southeast Airlines evoked memories of
last year's harsh actions against Southwest and American Airlines
over maintenance and documentation issues. So... will we see
another spring travel season marred by
the strandings of tens-of-thousands of
passengers due to FAA action?
The Dallas Morning News reports the FAA is trying to avoid such
a recurrence. The paper notes American Airlines, based in Fort
Worth, recently discovered its mechanics had incorrectly
reassembled pieces of a thrust reverser. But instead of again
shutting down hundreds of flights, the airline and the agency
agreed on a process which avoided disrupting the public's travel
John Allen, FAA director of flight standards service, says the
agency has learned a lot.
"We all have learned a lot since that time, and the winner is
the American public," said Allen. "They get to not have aircraft
grounded and impact their flying schedule, as occurred last
It was feared by some that claims the FAA had become too cozy
with the airlines it is charged with regulating would result in
more aggressive action this year, threatening the reliability of
Allen says the FAA is preparing a report that will provide
guidance to inspectors in judging the seriousness of a violation.
"It's going to provide a flow chart, if you will, and a process to
help our inspectors not be black and white, but be more
understanding of the nuances and who to reach out to," he said.
Tim Wagner, spokesman for American, said his airline and others
are still watching their backs after the sudden FAA crackdown last
year. In the past, he says, technicians "used to be trusted to do
work that met the safety requirements of an airworthiness
directive, even if it didn't match the extreme letter of the law,"
he said. "But now the FAA is administering to the letter of the
law, and we are adjusting to that change in how the FAA
Wagner also notes the FAA has stepped up the number of
investigations it conducts after last year's flap.