If the FAA cannot assure airline passenger safety, then who can?


US government orders audit of FAA over inaction against American Airlines safety violations

Earlier this year, eTurboNews reported on a whistleblower lawsuit alleging American Airlines has been seriously compromising the safety of its passengers through fraudulent maintenance practices.

In the initial article, ISIS 6: The legal battle for safety on American Airlines dated February 9, 2016, the US law firm of Clayton Foushee representing 6 American Airlines (AA) Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) indicated that the “AIR 21 whistleblower” filed a complaint that the airline’s managers had asked AMTs to:

– fraudulently document maintenance they had not performed,
– refrain from discrepancies they had found, and
– release aircraft into service even though not airworthy.

It was made known to the AMTS by the airline’s managers that there would be retaliation by the airline if they did not follow these instructions.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) stepped in and after an investigation of the 2 AIR 21 cases that the legal firm has been handling for American Airline AMTs – one at DFW and another at ORD involving 6 AMT complainants – this was all substantiated, resulting in the end of a total of 21 enforcement investigations against American Airlines. The ORD FAA investigation triggered no fewer than 21 enforcement investigative reports (EIRs).

The assigned FAA inspectors said they had never seen it so bad.

They commented that AA appeared to have abandoned any semblance of a lightning strike inspection program, and that AMTs had been pressured to send out un-airworthy aircraft. The Regional Maintenance Manager was to be targeted for license action, and the FAA predicted numerous groundings of planes and millions in fines.

FAA inspectors Randall Johnson and Kenneth Spivey had indicated to the Aviation Maintenance Technicians that there would be serious consequences.

Then… nothing.

The FAA Chief Counsel intervened, however, and 19 of the 21 EIRs were dismissed with no action and the remaining 2 with mere letters of correction.

There was no explanation offered by the FAA for such inaction in the face of massive violations.

On Friday, June 27, 2016, it was learned that due to congressional pressure, the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating an audit of the FAA’s oversight of airline maintenance operations. This is according to communication from Scott V. Harding, Chief of Complaint Center Operations for the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General.

The law firm representing the AMTs has sent hundreds of pages of documents to the OIG, including hard evidence of maintenance fraud at foreign repair stations. Internal American Airlines documents referred to as ADLs (Aircraft Discrepancy Logs) reflect maintenance documentation fraud by the Hong Kong-based vendor HAECO.

To date, a trial got extended and then blended right into another AIR 21 mediation.

One year and 9 months after the initial filing, the 6 original ORD complainants have still not received a decision from OSHA.

If there is a legitimate reason why the FAA has ultimately taken no corrective action, other than 2 letters of correction, AA aircraft mechanics need to know why. Otherwise, the lesson learned will be that illegal aircraft maintenance is acceptable to the FAA.

A letter sent to Reginald C. Govan, Chief Counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration, concerns both the inaction and the lack of transparency exhibited by the FAA when faced with the unlawful maintenance practices tolerated, and even promoted, by American Airlines managers.

The question remains: Why has the FAA taken no action with respect to the 19 enforcement investigative reports filed by the FAA’s own inspectors, as well as the release of the inspectors’ files relating to these EIRs?

If the FAA cannot assure airline passenger safety, then who can?

More background information may be found on this case in previous articles by eTurboNews on February 21, 2016 at:

Dangerous skies when flying on American Airlines?

American Airlines puts profit over safety? FAA is investigating