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American re-Grounds its MD-80s

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American re-Grounds its MD-80s

Old 11th Apr 2008, 11:07
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The whistle blowers complained that the airlines had not complied with the original ADs. Certain FAA inspectors overrode the complaints and this was over a year ago. The airlines have a vested interest in taking the easy way out and they did by going along with the FAA inspectors that they had developed a chummy relationship with.

As the airlines are more and more operating under "risk management"/SMS/self regulation, it was incumbent on the airline to satisfy themselves that the aircraft were in AD compliance. They took the easy way out and were called to the mat when the complaints of the whistle blowers were finally heard, a year later. The FAA is just starting to realize the implications of self regulation and by calling for the audits, saw that Southwest/AA/United and several others were not regulating themselves very well.

Why do you think all of these voluntary shutdowns are happening? Do you think it is because all of a sudden the airlines have become so safety conscious, especially with regard to ADs that were previously certified as being in compliance.

With fuel costs as they are at present, we are seeing the results of the bean counters trimming every cost they can. Simply, less oversight equals the fox in the hen house.

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Old 11th Apr 2008, 13:38
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This might have been answered, so apologies and could someone point me there instead...

What about other MD80 operators in the US and in the EU - particularly SAS/Blue1 and Alitalia? Are these affected in the sense that these airlines also need to carry out checks? Haven't really had the chance to ask any SAS/Blue1 crews this week...

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Old 11th Apr 2008, 14:37
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Yes, all operators in the world will be affected by the AD issued by the FAA. However, one hopes that other operators carried out the AD correctly when it was first issued and they won't have a problem with it.

The present problem is because of inadequacies in complying with the AD in the first place and the present audits by the FAA are checking for compliance
because some FAA whislte blowers advised that some US airlines had not complied correctly.

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Old 11th Apr 2008, 15:14
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On the point of trains again,

I live and work in Seoul. From Downlown to Kimpo is 45 minutes at best on subway (Incheon is almost 2 hours), plus one hour early for security and such, add the 2 hours gate to gate and 45 minutes in from Kimhae it is a total of 4.5 hours. Driving is about 5.5 hours if there is no trafic jam (3am???), and up to 7 hours as a high average. From downtown to downtown, the slow train (120 kph) is about 5.5 hours, and the KTX (TGV) is about 3 hours.

When the KTX was launched Korean and Asiana cut about 70% of their domestic flights (excpt Cheju and some small resort areas), or to Incheon as connectors.

The train can indeed kill off air travel in some markets.

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Old 11th Apr 2008, 15:54
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Apparently there have been in excess of 3 revisions to the AD note as well..further complicating attempts at compliance..
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Old 11th Apr 2008, 17:13
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It's not from me but reflect very well what I think about

This is an example of federal beuracracy run amoke. AA addressed the problem with the AD regarding wiring bundles in the wheel well earlier. However, as a result of whistleblowers revealing some embarrasingly shoddy enforcement of maintenance with Southwest, the FAA decided to become the gestapo and ground the entire fleet of MD 80's to prove a point - that they can be bad asses if they want to and to overreact to criticisms over the Southwest incident. There is nothing imminently unsafe regarding the way AA addressed the wiring bundles, it's just that they didn't place the wire holddown clamps in the correct places and manner as prescribed by the AD. It's nothing that could not have been dealt with during periodic maintencance or by even allowing a percentage of the planes to fly. No, they had to be chicken**** enforcers to show everyone that they have the biggest dicks when it comes to aviation. I'm so glad I don't have to deal with the FAA anymore. I was an A&P and a pilot and always got along with them because you learn very early on that you have to play their game or you will take it up the ass. In AA's case, yes, they screwed up, but instead of doing the right thing, the FAA is following the letter of the law (which they have the right to do) but does it make sense? Ask AA and the hundreds of thousands of people that are affected by this.

Look, a fault can be found with pretty much anything that is inspected, be it an airplane, a house, or a soldier. The inspecting agency has the latitude to make it very painful for their target if they choose to do so, and much of that depends on the message that is being sent and the history of their target. In this case, AA is the undeserved recipient of the rath of the FAA and it is a vengeful rath that the FAA is guilty of. They are the ones who have been glossing over shoddy inspections, and they think by doing this they are sending a message. Well, yes they are, but it could have been much better and with much less economic and personal hardship. Trust me, there will be a backlash to this whole debacle and the FAA will look less than professional when it's all said and done.

My two cents.

Edited by Shredder (Yesterday at 19:52)
Cheers for now.
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Old 11th Apr 2008, 18:41
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Trains and boats and planes

This may sound off - er - track, as it were, but how come a flight thread gets full of train spotters?
Specially as you have to log in these days.
I see the National Bus to Southampton is running late again today.
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 04:01
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FAA - The Solution, or The Problem?

Knowledgeable and rational people will eventually examine the facts and provide the answer to this question. Many of you fit that crterion. So if you would like to have a go at it, here is a link to AD 2006-15-15.


The details of the conditions are in: Boeing Alert Service Bulletin MD80-29A070, Revision 1, dated July 28, 2005. Can any of you post a copy of it here?

And, finally does anyone have a report of the FAA's inspection discrepancies ? The news reports are a bit sketchy regarding tie spacing and orientation.
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 04:51
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retire the md80's? you don't want to fly on one?

its a good plane when properly maintained. quiet (in the front).and very reliable.

lose all hydraulics and you still have full control of the plane...many planes can't say that. full manual reversion on all 3 axis of control...737 doesn't have that.

don't get me started about the airbus series.

this problem could have been handled alot easier for all. imagine asking a surgeon to make sure all the sutures in a patient were exactly "x inches" apart. and if not, having to operate again to make sure the distance was exactly right.

going back after the fact on the md80 to make sure the ties were exactly one inch apart instead of 1.25 inches apart...well, there are lots of problems with lots of planes out there that are much more concern to me!
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 08:06
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all operators in the world will be affected by the AD issued by the FAA. However, one hopes that other operators carried out the AD correctly when it was first issued and they won't have a problem with it.

The present problem is because of inadequacies in complying with the AD in the first place and the present audits by the FAA are checking for compliance
because some FAA whislte blowers advised that some US airlines had not complied correctly.
Thanks, I guess then the EU (and other) operators like SAS, Blue1 in my part of the world happily complied with the ADs...like I said hvaen't been around much to talk to SAS/Blue1 crews, though did meet some chap yesterday who said that its buisness as usual at SAS other than the usual maintence "problems"
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 08:26
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I see a basic issue here (that is, not to do with trains).

The FAA has recently discovered that some operators, for whatever reason, have not implemented some ADs the way they are written. The agency is thus now ensuring that ADs have been implemented to the letter.

Now do we support such a development, or do we not?

Does anybody here *really* want to argue that ADs don't really need to be implemented the way they are written?

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Old 12th Apr 2008, 09:24
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@PBL, as maintenance manager for 3 operators and now for a cooperate operation I have seen a few AD´s. Some of them are written in such a way that you really wonder WHAT to do WHEN and under WHICH condition.
This is especially true when the manufacturer has come up with a SB or SL before and one complied to that...
I haven´t read the AD concerned, but as a non-native english speaker I feel that there is an area that needs improvement. I´d guess that AA has some native english speakers available, so most likely that is not a point for this thread....

Oh, and BTW: ANY AD that comes up for my airplane is done ASAP. No chances taken there...
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 12:50
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@PBL, I personally do support what the FAA is currently doing and I only wish that more Airworthiness Authorities actually did the same. Safety should genuinely be a top priority at all times.
Unfortunately, some Airlines and Authorities may not have applied sufficient focus on this important issue as much as they should have done and those are now suffering the consequences.
It is also not only Engineers and Aircraft Manufacturers that may have contributed to some AD compliance failures. Mistakes are also made within various aircraft maintenance support departments that interpret, plan and record AD/Modification requirements and completions.
Whilst a lot of Airline/Airworthiness Authority focus is directed towards airlines having enough appropriately qualified, trained and experienced hands-on aircraft engineers the same cannot always be said for support staff.
This is a pity because if for any reason, support staff do not ensure that AD requirements are correctly issued to the appropriate aircraft/equipment at the right times, then it does not matter how good the hands-on engineers are, an AD requirement may not get complied with.
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 17:22
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Maintenance is of a far better quality in Europe the mechs are much better trainned and paid than in the US. You pay peanuts you get monkeys.
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 19:47
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An Apology From American Airlines

I found this in my mailbox this morning (I have frequent flier status on AA):

Dear XY,

As one of our most valued customers, please accept my apology on behalf of American Airlines(R) to you, your family and your fellow AAdvantage(R) customers for disrupting so many peoples' lives with the recent flight cancellations related to the inspection of our MD-80 aircraft fleet.

As you can imagine, American's decision to cancel thousands of flights this week was difficult, and it undoubtedly created concern among our best customers - even those who had no travel plans during the period.

If in your travels you were among the many who have been personally affected, I sincerely regret the inconvenience you have experienced. Our employees will continue to work around the clock to accommodate all who still need to reach their desired destinations. We anticipate returning to a full schedule by Monday.

While the media reports have documented the reasons why American took this action and the steps we're taking to re-accommodate and compensate affected customers, I've also attached an explanation of the events for your understanding. It's a bit complex, but at the end of it all, please know this:

First, your safety and the safety of our employees remains our number one priority.

Second, we will learn from this experience and we will get better.

Finally, we wholeheartedly appreciate your loyalty to American Airlines, and we remain committed to earning your business each and every day.


Dan Garton
Executive Vice President

P.S. You may have already contacted us via AA.com(R) or by writing directly to Customer Relations. Let me reassure you that we will respond directly to your contact just as quickly as practical.


American Airlines MD-80 Fleet Inspections

Background: In 2004, American Airlines was the lead airline working with Boeing to develop a Service Bulletin to correct wiring exposure and chafing in the MD-80 auxiliary hydraulic pump wire bundle. The concern was that exposure and chafing could cause fire in the wheel well. An Airworthiness Directive (AD) was issued in September 2006, giving MD-80 operators, including American, 18 months to address this issue. American completed the Service Bulletin in November 2006, followed by adjustments deemed necessary by American's structural engineers to comply with the AD well ahead of a March 2008 deadline.

In recent weeks the Federal Aviation Administration significantly increased its emphasis on monitoring the adherence to Airworthiness Directives that apply to various U.S. airlines. With respect to American Airlines' MD-80 fleet, we had a detailed issue that we believed had to be addressed immediately to remain compliant with the FAA; if found in non-compliance, we would have been instructed to stop flying our airplanes.

What is the specific nature of the issue?
The issue surrounds questions raised by the FAA about the way American implemented the Engineering Change Order (ECO) addressing the MD-80 auxiliary pump wiring Airworthiness Directive (AD). American fixed the item well within the specified AD timeframe. The work being done now centers on a need to change the way in which American complied with the AD regarding such items as the spacing of the ties on the wiring bundles and the direction of the retention clips and lacing cords. We are highly confident that this is not a safety of flight issue because the wire bundle is secure. It is a matter of how the work was done, not whether aircraft were protected from the threat of wire exposure and chafing that could cause fire.

Why ground the entire MD-80 fleet?
It became clear based on the number of questions the FAA raised that there would be a high percentage of aircraft that would not be found to be in full compliance of the Airworthiness Directive. Working with the FAA we were unable to find an alternative solution to regaining compliance - for example, a multi-day period to rectify the issues - so we had no choice but to ground the aircraft. While it has been a major disruption to AA's operation, everyone recognizes the need to ensure that the MD-80 fleet is in complete compliance and is working to restore the MD-80s back to service as quickly as possible.

Who is completing the work and why is it taking longer than the previous MD-80 inspections?
There are three levels of American employees accomplishing the work. American has assigned a team of employees - aviation maintenance technicians, quality assurance inspectors, and engineers - to inspect the aircraft and ensure full technical compliance, as well as to make any additional adjustments. As our aircraft return to service, the FAA is inspecting those aircraft to ensure compliance.

What is the airline doing for customers?
We are doing everything possible to take care of our customers as expeditiously as possible while facing the fact that our resources have been stretched to their limits. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience and know that this kind of interruption of travel plans is unacceptable. While customers are dislocated we are providing meals, hotels and ground transportation; for those stranded overnight, we will offer vouchers for future travel on American Airlines. Customers who were inconvenienced with overnight stays can go to AA.com where a link will guide them to instructions on how to receive compensation.


What is the company doing to make sure it doesn't happen again?
American plans to contract with an independent third party to review American's compliance processes. This work will help ensure that all procedures strictly adhere to the technical elements of every directive so American can avoid this type of schedule disruption in the future.

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Old 13th Apr 2008, 12:30
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The New York Times
Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

April 13, 2008
Behind Air Chaos, an F.A.A. Pendulum Swing

WASHINGTON — For all the headaches of flying in the United States, the domestic airlines were until recently considered a logistical marvel, moving two million people a day with remarkably few accidents.

Now they are in chaos, with airlines grounding more than 500 planes and thousands of flights so far because they may not meet safety requirements. Travelers have seen this before but only rarely, when all planes were grounded after the Sept. 11 attacks and when the government grounded all DC-10s after an engine fell off one of them in 1979, killing 273 people.

But there is a big difference this time: there has been no crash.

What happened?

One answer is that some whistle-blower inspectors for the Federal Aviation Administration disclosed that they had been discouraged from cracking down on Southwest Airlines for maintenance problems, and they found a sympathetic audience with some Washington lawmakers.

That prodded the F.A.A. to order a national audit to check whether airlines were in compliance — and to propose a record penalty of $10.2 million against Southwest.

Then F.A.A. inspectors discovered the mistakes that prompted American to cancel more than 3,000 flights last week. Delta, United, Alaska and others also canceled hundreds of flights.

But more broadly, the turmoil is better understood as a reaction — or overreaction, in the eyes of some in the industry — to a long-term shift, over two presidencies, in the way the F.A.A. oversees the airlines.

In the 1990s, the agency was more of a cop on the beat, handing out penalties to those who broke the rules.

“You used to fear an F.A.A. inspector showing up,” said Joseph Tiberi, a spokesman with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “They checked everything from the nuts and bolts in your tool kit to the paperwork in the cockpit.”

But then a different, more collaborative approach emerged that critics say went too far. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, which crippled the industry, the agency began “a creep away from their rigorous oversight of maintenance,” said Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the House committee that has pushed the issue.

That arrangement was “coddling the airlines,” he added, which eased the burden on the F.A.A., with its inspectors spending more time on paperwork than on airplanes.

The change began after the T.W.A. 800 and ValuJet disasters in the mid-1990s, when regulators and the industry convened a “safety summit.” Then the Clinton administration formed a national commission in 1997 on aviation safety and security, led by Vice President Al Gore and known as the Gore Commission. It set a goal of cutting the rate of fatal accidents 80 percent over 10 years.

One idea was for the F.A.A. to start working more closely with the industry. If airlines shared their mistakes or problems without fear of retribution, the reasoning went, the system would benefit from these shared lessons.

And it seems to have. Over the next decade, the accident rate fell 65 percent, and this new approach is widely seen as having played a role in the drop.

Then the F.A.A., under the Bush administration, took on a role after the Sept. 11 attacks to help the industry recover — “through technology, through greater efficiencies, through sensible and non-burdensome regulatory schemes,” Marion C. Blakey, the F.A.A. administrator in 2002, said at the time. She declined to be interviewed for this article.

This more collaborative approach was reflected in a “customer service initiative” announced by the F.A.A. in April 2003.

The customers in this case were not passengers; they were the airlines the F.A.A. regulates. The core principles of the new initiative, which inspectors could print up on pocket-size cards, included creating for the airlines “an environment without fear of retribution if you challenge our decisions” and “clear guidance on how you can elevate your concerns to the next higher level of authority.”

The F.A.A.’s watchdog role, to many Democrats in Congress who now oversee airline regulators, grew toothless. “We had drifted a little bit too much toward the over-closeness and coziness between regulator and regulated,” said H. Clayton Foushee Jr., a former F.A.A. official who led a recent inquiry by Mr. Oberstar’s committee.

Some inspectors in the field were also concerned by the drift. In early 2003, Charalambe Boutris, an inspector in the F.A.A.’s Dallas office, began reviewing Southwest’s engine maintenance records.

The task would seem the equivalent of the Maytag repairman’s job, since Southwest has a stellar safety record. But Mr. Boutris discovered the airline’s record-keeping was inconsistent and varied from aircraft to aircraft, according to the United States Office of Special Counsel, which reviewed his accusations.

After raising the issue with a supervisor, Mr. Boutris was told he could send Southwest a letter expressing concern, but not a more serious “letter of investigation,” which is what regulations called for under such circumstances.

He continued to find problems with the airline’s record-keeping, and again pressed for an investigation. But his supervisor again chose a slap-on-the-wrist letter, and Southwest officials began to lobby for Mr. Boutris’s removal.

Yet problems remained. In January 2007, the airline discovered cracks on some of its Boeing 737s. Less than two months later, an unidentified whistle-blower in the F.A.A.’s Chicago office noticed a crack in a Southwest jet that had been flown the day before.

Earlier this year, Southwest told the F.A.A. that it had flown 46 planes without the required inspections of fuselage panels, operating the defective planes for up to nine months on more than 61,000 flights. That “self-disclosure” normally would have allowed Southwest to avoid financial penalties as long as it fixed the problems. And it kept flying the planes.

It also flew 27 planes that were not in compliance with an F.A.A. directive requiring inspections of cargo doors.

Before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearings on April 3, Mr. Boutris and another inspector, Douglas Peters, testified about being told by supervisors to ignore violations by Southwest. “My supervisor was suppressing my authority and responsibility to report them in accordance with mandated F.A.A. guidance,” Mr. Boutris testified.

The two men, who say they have received threats over their decision to expose the airline, have become “rock stars” within aviation safety circles, Mr. Foushee said.

Mr. Foushee said he began to hear “noise” as soon as he joined the committee in January 2007 about the relationship between the airlines and the agency.

“F.A.A. people would call me, and contact me, saying, ‘We’re not able to do our jobs anymore,’ ” said Mr. Foushee, who worked for a law firm in Washington before joining the committee staff.

He spoke first with Mr. Peters, who contacted him anonymously. He then spoke with Mr. Boutris and began the committee’s investigation into the conduct of the airlines and the agency.

The two men “turned over incontrovertible evidence that what happened happened,” he said.

When the committee began circulating a damning report on how the agency had treated the two whistle-blowers, written by the Special Counsel’s office, the F.A.A. decided it had to act. It ordered a nationwide audit and relieved Mr. Boutris’s supervisor of his safety responsibilities.

Now the F.A.A. is conducting a broad national audit, which led to the grounding of all MD-80s in the American Airlines fleet. More groundings of other planes throughout the industry are likely to occur in coming weeks as the audit continues. American, for its part, said it would resume its normal schedule on Sunday.

More disclosures about lax inspections are likely, Mr. Oberstar said.

“There are more people coming to us with reports of stuff,” he added. “They said, ‘No one was listening to us for last six or seven years; now we’ve got someone who understands the problems, understands the safety implications.’ ”

He said the new reports came from all around the country, not just the regional office responsible for Southwest Airlines.

“Pilots talk to me, flight attendants talk to me, ramp mechanics have stopped me and said, ‘I want you to know this is happening,’ ” Mr. Oberstar said.

A number of industry officials, however, call the latest crackdown an overreaction, pointing to American’s decision to park all 300 of its MD-80s while it checked whether their wiring complied with a safety directive.

One senior executive at another airline, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the agency’s new stance reflects the new tone in aviation safety.

“In the past, you wouldn’t have grounded the whole fleet,” the executive said. “There’s a question of what’s rational and what’s not.”

A change in procedures seems likely. Tom Brantley, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the inspectors’ union, testified on April 3 that inspectors have been defanged by the F.A.A. itself.

For example, he said, if the inspectors show up without warning, he said, airlines would complain to their F.A.A. superiors that “they’re slowing us down, they’re asking people questions, they’re costing us money.”

And the agency seems likely to change its procedure for “self-reporting” and avoiding penalties. Two F.A.A. managers have been transferred, and others may lose their jobs.

Passengers will have to endure more canceled flights in coming weeks. But they are also left to make sense of mixed signals — about planes that rarely crash anymore but whose safety is suddenly in doubt, and about an agency that was long considered best-in-class that suddenly seems broken.

The unraveling relationship between the F.A.A. and the airlines is “like a divorce,” said James E. Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “And the children are the passengers.”

Mr. Oberstar said these were “difficult times for the passengers,” with, by his count, 568 aircraft grounded so far. “But I think they’d rather be on the ground than 7 miles in the air, with no way to pull over to the curb and check under the hood,” he said.

Matthew L. Wald reported from Washington, and Micheline Maynard from Detroit.
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Old 13th Apr 2008, 13:18
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The FAA Mission Statement is rather revealing:


Who are the "customers" of the FAA that the FAA is supposedly working for, if such "customers" are not actually the traveling public?

If ever there was a blatant conflict of interest....and they are silly enough to put it in print.
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Old 14th Apr 2008, 15:52
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"its a good plane when properly maintained."

I hear what your saying, but isnt that the whole point....
Properly maintained??????

what if they are not?

and it seems they have not been properly maintained.
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Old 14th Apr 2008, 19:13
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Marion Blakey is an idiot.

Brownie number two.
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Old 14th Apr 2008, 20:03
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chefrp (do I know you, rp?)

anyway, the whole point about maintenance is this.

IF you have an airline system in which low cost carriers have cut to the bone their mx, and the big, legacy carriers have to follow suit to stay in business...then isn't the real problem:

MONEY to do things Correctly?

I will assume you are in aviation as a pro, let me know otherwise.

IF jet blue buys new airbusess with 5 years of free mx and then ships out their planes to some central american country for repairs isn't that the problem...forcing others to cut their staffs and their standards?

the American Airlines pilots put an ad in the newspaper declaring that managment had cut too deeply , helping to cause problems.

just remember, those new airbusess will be falling apart one day...remember who will fix them.
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