Outsourced Maintenance: “Profits over Safety”

Offshore Maintenance Article Photo

American and Spirit Airlines already share one thing in common. Spirit has the number one most Fume Events in North America. American Airlines has less but it ranks number two due to the ULCC Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier maintenance practices it has continued with on their newly acquired US Airways fleet. They are now sinking even lower and following the Spirit Airlines lead in doing cost-cutting substandard offshore maintenance for engine wet seal replacement and engine C-Check Overhaul.

The reason Spirit leads in Fume Events is due to their poor maintenance policy on engine wet seals replacement guidelines on the already defective bleed air aircraft. Now with AA going down this same path. The AA crews can expect to see Fume Event numbers rise in the months ahead once this goes into effect. This is very bad news for American Airlines employees, crew members, and passengers. These two airlines should just go ahead and merge. As American will soon turn into a ULCC low-cost Spirit Airlines product.

Any shred of quality or reputation for safety American once had will soon disappear. American will never be the same airline once they fully go down this ULCC maintenance road. The ULCC maintenance policy is a switch from doing a proactive replacement on engine wet seals prior to them becoming damaged to just waiting for them to crack, rupture or burst aka “Fume Event” then having the aircraft sent offshore for replacement. Once offshore then none of the US safety agencies can inspect, verify or enforce any quality compliance on the work that was done. Also, these same aircraft will continue to fly for typically 7 to 10 days after the first heavy seal rupture Fume Event. US ULCC carriers have been allowed to be approved for a risky and unsafe procedure that circumvents the safety process.

The aircraft in question will be allowed to fly those 7 to 10 days while waiting to get re-routed to the offshore overhaul facility by navigating a few shady maintenance loopholes. FAA has authorized the “Bandaid on a Cancer” fix to allow these planes to operate after an engine wet seal rupture aka “Fume Event.” They are allowing if not encouraging airline maintenance to do this “Burn Out” procedure where they run the engines at high velocity to burn out the organophosphate toxins. This procedure is currently legally allowed by FAA and is endorsed as well as proposed maintenance procedure from Airbus. They then will DMI Deferred maintenance item the air pack attached to the affected engine. Often they will write in the maintenance log that it was an APU Auxillary Power Unit overfill problem. APU can be DMI but full on ruptured engine wet seal can not. So this is the way to legally circumvent the maintenance process to keep flying a known broken aircraft. During this 7 to 10 days while the plane is getting routed to the C-Check Engine Overhaul facility offshore it will continue to fly other sectors.

Many of these sectors will continue to have additional Fume Events which will intentionally expose and sicken crew as well as passengers. These complications are from the Organophosphate Poisoning vapors that enter the cabin. These chemicals have many of the same effects as Sarin Gas. These can cause short term, long term, permanent injury and sometimes even death. Many passengers and crew suffer from Aerotoxic Syndrome and MCS Multiple Chemical Sensitivity following these events. Most are completely unaware as to where these symptoms have come from and why they become chronically sick after one of these flights. This is often referred to as “the Asbestos of the Airline Industry.”

One might think that this is “Criminal Negligence.” Well, that is exactly what it is but it is legally allowed to be done just like this in the US airline industry today. This has been a known procedure at Spirit Airlines since their big route expansion from 2015 moving forward. The airline even continued down this path after the sudden death of one of their pilots in that same year named, Captain James Anderberg. The Captain died just 50 days after his severe Fume Event at Spirit Airlines and near-fatal crash which could have resulted with a loss of all life onboard. He died of sudden cardiac arrest from Catecholamine Mediated Myocarditis. His autopsy showed contamination of oil petroleum products in his blood and heart muscle. This appears to be the sad future for not just the former US Air fleet at American. Yet, now the entire American Airlines fleet will now be going to this ULCC maintenance business model and then use the offshore maintenance to hide and cover their tracks. This will keep the prying eyes of any US DOT government regulators and FAA inspectors from stepping in or getting involved. That is if any of those in the US still have even an ounce of integrity left which is fairly doubtful at this point.

“The processes and regulations of offshore providers often do not meet U.S. standards. While the Department of Transportation can address risks through its regulatory authority over domestic facilities, it cannot impose U.S. safety regulations on facilities outside the country.”

“The airlines are shipping this maintenance work offshore for the reason you’d expect: to cut labor costs. Mechanics in El Salvador, Mexico, China, and elsewhere earn a fraction of what mechanics in the U.S. do. In part because of this offshoring, the number of maintenance jobs at U.S. carriers has plummeted, from 72,000 in the year 2000 to fewer than 50,000 today. But the issue isn’t just jobs. A century ago, Upton Sinclair wrote his novel The Jungle to call attention to the plight of workers in the slaughterhouses, but what really got people upset was learning how unsafe their meat was. Safety is an issue here, too. The Federal Aviation Administration is supposed to be inspecting all the overseas facilities that do maintenance for airlines—just as it is supposed to inspect those in America. But the F.A.A. no longer has the money or the manpower to do this.”

“A major overhaul base in China, the ratio is one F.A.A.-certified mechanic for every 31 non-certified mechanics. In 2011, an Air France Airbus A340 that had undergone a major overhaul at a maintenance facility used by U.S. and European airlines in Xiamen, China, flew for five days with 30 screws missing from one of its wings. A year earlier, an Air France Boeing 747 that had undergone major maintenance at another Chinese facility was grounded after it was found that some of the plane’s exterior had been refinished with potentially flammable paint.”

“In 2009, a US Airways Boeing 737 jet carrying passengers from Omaha to Phoenix had to make an emergency landing in Denver when a high-pitched whistling sound in the cabin signaled that the seal around the main cabin door had begun to fail. It was later discovered that mechanics at Aeroman’s El Salvador facility had installed a key component of the door backward. In another incident, Aeroman mechanics crossed wires that connect the cockpit gauges and the airplane’s engines, a potentially catastrophic error that, in the words of a 2012 Congressional Research Service report, “could cause a pilot to shut down the wrong engine if engine trouble was suspected.”

“In 2007, a China Airlines Boeing 737 took off from Taiwan and landed in Okinawa only to catch fire and explode shortly after taxiing to a gate. Miraculously, all 165 people on board escaped without serious injury. Investigators later concluded that during maintenance work in Taiwan mechanics had failed to attach a washer to part of the right wing assembly, allowing a bolt to come loose and puncture a fuel tank.”

“American planes are being repaired in foreign maintenance shops where seven in eight mechanics are not certified and “few can read the English instruction manuals.” When airplanes need a fix, they are shipped off to stations in El Salvador, Mexico or China to be completely dismantled and reassembled. Yet, few of the workers speak or read English, the universal language for airplane repair manuals. The Federal Aviation Administration has little power to inspect and oversee foreign operations. El Salvador boasts one of the biggest repair complexes in the world, with 2,000 mechanics and five hangars, Vanity Fair reports.” 

“Just one in eight workers at El Salvador’s Aeroman Complex, at Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, are FAA certified, Steele writes. He adds that the Chinese overhaul facility operating in China has just one in 31 certified workers.  The requirement to be FAA certified, one must be able to read, write and speak English. The FAA administration requires visas and permission from foreign governments to surprise-inspect their international licensed warehouses, thereby ruining the surprise.”

Home

American Airlines has been utilizing quality unionized professional trained FAA certified mechanics at their overhaul facility in Tusla, Oklahoma. However, this may be coming to an end soon if this ULCC systemwide maintenance plan comes into play. The remainder of the American fleet could end up in the same poor share as the US Air fleet which they acquired. US Air uses dangerous, unqualified, non-FAA certified and non-English speaking offshore ULCC maintenance at the Aeroman El Salvador. This could be the new home for all engine wet seal replacement and C-Check Engine Overhaul for the mainline American Airlines fleet as well in the very near future. American Airlines maintenance in the US has launched the “American Airlines Should Care” ad campaign. This is an attempt to educate, inform and rally a growingly indifferent flying public.

Airline Passengers seem to only be interested in low fares to get from point A to point B. However, their ongoing indifference could be very well costing them their health and safety. While at other times even the very lives of their own and loved ones for not paying attention to what the airline industry is quietly doing to us all. This is all part  of the never-ending Aviation Industry with their “Race to the Bottom.”  It is a race to reduce wages, reduce quality and reduce safety all in the name of protecting profits $$$ with their bottom line for their shareholders.

Knowledge is Power

Aviation Travel Writer: The Flight Times Blog
FUME EVENT: “Aviation’s Biggest Lie”

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Email: AviationTravelWriter@gmail.com

Link: Airplane Maintenance Outsourcing Tests Bounds of Safety

Link: Amount of Outsourced Offshore Airline Maintenance Work Has Risen

Link: Vanity Fair: Airline Industry Unsafe


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