Are airline mechanics "skipping steps" to get the planes back in service?

Jay Ratliff is iHeart's Airline Expert and he has a huge amount of experience to share. I am reposting a recent message to me:

Could it be true?

If you ask airline management the answer is a quick "No, safety is our Number One priority." Yet, when you examine the evidence in detail you get a much different answer. In fact, when I hear an airline executive utter those words it makes me sick - because safety is not the priority...profits are.

The CBS report details interviews with current airline mechanics (most from Southwest and American) who say they are under pressure to skip steps. Again, airline management quickly denied any such claim but when you research the fines handed down by the Federal Aviation Administration, per Violation Tracker, you will see (since 2000) American Airlines has been fined 691 times for Aviation Safety Violations to the tune of $127.4 million and Southwest Airlines (since 2000) has been fined 262 times for Aviation Safety Violations totaling $42.8 million!

Airline safety is not Priority One, profits are.

This fact was never more so evident than it was following an incident with Southwest Airlines flight 3472 over the Gulf of Mexico in August of 2016 when the New Orleans to Orlando flight experienced an engine failure, where the engine actually blew apart in flight with fragments striking the fuselage of the aircraft. Engines are designed to be self-contained, so that when an engine failure takes place the components of the engine remain within the engine cowling (covering) and that did not happen during this catastrophic and unconfined engine failure.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted an exhaustive investigation and discovered issues with the aircraft engine that caused concern. So much in fact the NTSB recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration that similar engines be subjected to immediate inspection. Unfortunately, and in typical FAA fashion, they failed to make that recommendation and made subsequent inspections "voluntary" for all airlines which operated aircraft with that CFM engine.

When the FAA failed to act, the maker of the aircraft engine also urged airlines to inspect the engines earlier than called for by the maintenance manuals and the airlines which had those engines refused to comply with the recommendation, citing the inspections were unnecessary and would take too many aircraft out of service. (Revenue over safety)

If safety was indeed the number one priority for airlines there would have been no hesitation to inspect the engines and tragically they did not.

In April of 2018 another Southwest Airlines flight had the identical unconfined engine failure, except this time a passenger was killed in the process. Shortly after the incident, airlines operating these CFM engines "voluntarily" opted to take their planes out of service to inspect the engines. The airline hypocrisy as they tried to position themselves as being proactive was nauseating.

The CBS report makes a valid point these mechanic warnings are not a red flag for the airline industry, but a field of red flags and serious work needs to be done before we have another aviation incident based on airline inaction.

Jay Ratliff

iHeart Aviation Analyst

 

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