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United Grounds 757 Fleet

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United Grounds 757 Fleet

Old 15th Feb 2011, 22:43
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United Grounds 757 Fleet

Looks like United has grounded its 757 fleet. According to @flightblogger on T w i t t e r, early reports point to software in the 757's air data computer.

United Airlines Grounds Entire Boeing 757 Fleet | NYCAviation.com | Airplane Photos, Airline News, Planespotting Guides

757s en-route are finishing up their flights.

Last edited by Skyray; 15th Feb 2011 at 22:55.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 23:09
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With 96 of the 158-strong B752 fleet grounded, can anybody confirm whether the ex-Continental units make up the unaffected aircraft? Thanks.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 23:39
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The CO 757s are not affected. That's where the 96 grounded of 158 total comes from.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 00:57
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According to the Denver Tattler (Denverpost) The problem was related to a software update installed in 2004 that was not certified/tested after installation.
There have been no issues or none expected, just that the proper tests after installation were not complied. A 60-90 min check and certification and aircraft is back in service. Some of the grounded birds are already back in the air. No information about FAA's take on this at this time, UAL grounding is volintary. It might get nasty considering that FAA hammered AA on a previous issue. This apparently had been over looked since 2004.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 14:24
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sounds more like United want3ed to avoid a fine, rather than immediate safety of flight
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 16:23
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Read earlier today that is linked to an AD.
So if this is the case, l dread to think what the fine is going to be.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 19:30
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United Airlines has temporarily grounded no fewer than 96 of its Boeing 757 airplanes for what officials deemed as "unscheduled maintenance," CNN reported this morning. Although 15 flights were cancelled February 15—the day of the grounding—the airline indicated that operations should return to normal today.

The work was confined to the air data computers, according to a spokesperson for United. The maintenance, identified as a modification, was undertaken to ensure that pilots and other qualified members of the flight crew would have the capacity to override an over speed or stall warning that may have sounded in error.

A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) called the action on United's part "voluntary," adding that the FAA would "follow up as necessary."

However, the spokesperson also said that the modification was required to bring the airline into compliance with an airworthiness directive issued by the FAA in 2004. The spokesperson gave no indication as to why the airline took more than six years to comply. United did not give an indication as to why such a high number of planes all had to be grounded on the same day, forcing cancellations.

It was also not indicated if the directive issued in 2004 pertained to compliance that was voluntary in nature only or if the airline voluntarily grounded its 757 fleet en masse yesterday to affect the modification all at once. The FAA did not indicate if it pressured United to comply, given the date of the original directive.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 07:01
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It was a 6 year old AD - 2004-10-15

Required Safety Checks Were Not Done Despite Six Year Compliance Time

Thursday, February 17, 2011 — David Evans
Source; Required Safety Checks Were Not Done Despite Six Year Compliance Time|Aviation Safety Journal
Almost 100 jets were grounded to accomplish required safety checks, raising serious questions about federal oversight of the airline that was at least eight months late doing the work.
On 15 February United Airlines announced that it was grounding 96 of its B757s to check and validate software and hardware changes for the airplane’s air data computer systems.
“We apologize for any inconvenience and ask customers to check their flights status … before going to the airport,” said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. The work reportedly will take 12-24 hours to complete, so the airplanes should be returned to service as of this writing.
According to media reports, during a routine maintenance check, United discovered that it had not followed all the steps required in an airworthiness directive (AD) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2004.
End of story? Not a big problem? Hardly. Rather than soothing reports of how well United did getting these grounded aircraft back on the flight schedule, the story should have been of the utter failures demonstrated here and the lack of assurances that this latest problem isn’t part of a systemic FAA absence of oversight.
The AD in question (AD 2004-10-15) was published in the Federal Register in May 2004. Extracts below set forth the work to be done and the reasons therefore:

“This [AD] requires a modification of the air data computer (ADC) system, which involves installing certain new circuit breakers, relays, and related components, and making various wiring changes in and between the flight deck and main equipment center …
“This action is necessary to ensure that the flightcrew is able to silence an erroneous overspeed or stall aural warning. A persistent erroneous warning could confuse and distract the flightcrew and lead to an increase in the flightcrew’s workload. Such a situation could lead the flightcrew to act on hazardously misleading information, which could result in loss of control of the airplane …
“For Model 757-200 … airplanes: Install a circuit breaker and replace an existing lightplate assembly with a new, improved lightplate assembly in the flight compartment; install two relays and remove a certain relay in the main equipment center; make various wiring changes in the flight compartment and main equipment center; and perform tests of the flight data acquisition unit, flight data recorder system, and stall and overspeed warnings.”

The work was required within 6 years of the AD’s effective date of June 22, 2004. United had performed the hardware changes within that period, but failed to perform the functionality tests, hence the grounding for the required tests.
The period of non-compliance with the AD appears to be from June 2010 to February 2011.
United’s public announcement of the belatedly required checks may be an attempt to forestall a civil penalty of millions of dollars, since the out-of-compliance fine is based on the number of airplanes times the number of flights made in a noncompliant condition. Recall that in October 2009 the FAA proposed a $3.8 million fine against United for flying a B737 over 200 flights with shop towels, rather than protective caps, covering openings in the oil sump on the right-side engine. Recall, also, the $24.2 million fine proposed against American Airlines in August 2010 for failing to follow an AD affecting 286 MD-80 twinjets. (See Aviation Safety Journal, October 2009, “Distracting Attention From Systemic Safety Shortcomings” and September 2010, “Penalty Raises Question: Where Was the FAA When Airline Was Out of Compliance?”)
One has to ask why the full AD compliance was not tracked in a timely manner by United. After all, software for alerting when data (invoices) becomes “past due” is available at all office supply stores.
And where was the FAA principal maintenance inspector (PMI) in this fiasco? If he didn’t notice the noncompliant aircraft, then where were the assigned certificate management folks assigned by the FAA to oversee United’s operating certificate (which includes AD compliance in support of that operating certificate). Lastly, if oversight at these field levels was lacking, where was the FAA’s Washington DC headquarters in all of this?
Pertinent questions go well beyond feel-good statements.
Every month that this AD went beyond compliance is not just an indictment of United’s programs for continuing safety analysis accepted by the FAA, but also of the FAA’s entire oversight program – from the PMI to Washington headquarters.
End ---
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 08:08
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I genuinely do not want to pour oil onto the fire but the cracks have been appearing for some time and most are in denial or have a misplaced sense of loyalty to the industry rather than ensuring that safety is paramount at all times.

It is widespread and will get worse. Sad but true.

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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 11:29
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757s en-route are finishing up their flights.
Really?




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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 12:01
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I genuinely do not want to pour oil onto the fire but the cracks have been appearing for some time and most are in denial or have a misplaced sense of loyalty to the industry rather than ensuring that safety is paramount at all times.

It is widespread and will get worse. Sad but true.
I spent some time last night reading the "near death experience" thread about Air India. This event is another side of the same coin, in a different discipline but part of the one industry of which everyone was once and rightly so proud

For me, the common theme in among all this is the headlong race towards the lowest cost model, driven in no small part by the preponderance of beancounter mentality in too many areas.

AD's not complied with, and apparently the supervisory system "missed" the non compliance. Parts being used where the provenance and paper trail is at best questionable and in some cases non existent or completely fraudulent. Ramp and line checks that manage somehow to miss that a cleaner had omitted to remove speed tape from alternate static ports for nearly 2 days. Ramp engineers that jack up a 777 wheel and turn it 90 degrees before the new crew arrive to save doing a tyre change during a 3 hour turnround, and say "they can do that when it gets to the home station".

Pilots with inadequate experience being signed off to fly types for which their experience level is woefully inadequate, pilots with forged or fraudulently gained licences, pilots that fail simulator checks being passed through a bypass system that ignores their failings. Training environments that actively discourage "extra learning" or "experimenting in the sim to find what the real edges of the operating envelope are". SOP's that do their best to ensure that hands on time is minimised.

The downgrading of the whole passenger experience to the extent of a "rugby scrum" around the gate from departure -40 and no respect for families with small children.

Double standards in ground handling, dangerous and damaged equipment being used to support ground operations. Management that block the submission of MOR's to protect their own positions.

The question one has to ask is how it was allowed to happen, and how the status ante can be restored so that aviation can be demonstrated to be operating at levels that are really safe.

I don't have an answer to this, I'm not even going to try and suggest any, I know from experience that if I do, I will get public abuse and vilification from the people that are dressed like the emperor in no clothes and a significant and probably equal number of private messages and E-mails that tell me I am on the mark, and to not give up speaking out.

Do we have to see a really big smoking hole in the ground before "the system" responds to the gradual and insidious erosion of so many standards across the board. The massive damage to the wing structure of the Qantas A 380 after the uncontained engine failure could have so easily ended very differently, the BA777 double engine failure that was fortunately almost a unique event, but it happened, and again, could have had a very different outcome, and there are other incidents that others could quote that are similar. The recent A320 into the Hudson, Sioux City, the Gimli Glider, Air transat into the Azores.

I will ask this question, but I don't want answers as such, it's personal to you.

How many pilots reading reports like Sioux City, the gimli Glider. the A320 ditching and the others mentioned above have read them and thought, I'm not sure if I could have dealt with that scenario, I don't know enough about the aircraft to be able to do it?

If your answer to this thought is positive, are you motivated to find out more about the type you fly to change that situation?

If you then have sought to improve your knowledge levels or skills, how was that received? Positively or negatively?

The answer to these few questions may not be comfortable, but it may be very revealing of the real underlying attitude to safety in the air.

Huge fines are not the answer, if the operators are already struggling to make ends meet, and are cutting corners in order to do so, taking large sums off them is not going to improve that in any way, unless a way to take the fines directly and only out of shareholder dividends can be found, so that the shareholders are better motivated to watch more carefully what the people who are responsible for that shareholding are doing.

If the operators are lossmaking in the first place, then fining them could be the straw that breaks them. Is that in anyones interest?

Then there are the worldwide cultural and financial issues that also are a factor. An Airline from a small country may be very hard pressed to pay the fees and other charges at an international airport, if they negotiate hard and get a reduced handling rate, should they also then be forced to accept a poorer standard of service as a result? Should they be forced to accept significant delays because the ground handler does not have enough serviceable ramp equipment to do the turn round on all the flights that have arrived at the same time?

The airline industry is probably the most regulated industry after the nuclear power industry. Rightly so, the consequences for both of failure in any area are huge. We have seen for all the wrong reasons a gradual and caustic erosion of standards in some areas over a long period of time, but that erosion has in some areas been hidden by the massive and equally significant improvement in things like airborne systems, navigation aids and systems, computer performance, size and scalability, all of which mean that the information and analysis capability available to everyone in the industry is light years ahead of what it used to be.

The one very big downside to automation of any sort, on the ground, in the air, or in support systems is that they are subject to the same problem, rubbish in = 4 x rubbish out. In some scenarios, there is too much irrelevant information.

If I am presented with a printout of 60 pages, and there is only one line in that 60 pages that is significant or out of order, I am likely to miss it.

If I am presented with 12 lines of ECAM messages, without experience or in depth knowledge of exactly how the thing works, how do I determine which of those 12 is the most urgent?

If I know that making the right decision may cost me my hard earned and even more difficult to replace job, how do I square that circle?

I don't have an all embracing answer. What I do know is that with the way things are economically in many countries right now, the wrong decisions could end up having a very high cost in lives over the coming years, and silence is no longer a solution.

Last edited by Irish Steve; 22nd Feb 2011 at 18:59. Reason: wrong operator for the 380, Thanks
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 13:31
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Do we have to see a really big smoking hole in the ground before "the system" responds to the gradual and insidious erosion of so many standards across the board.
The answer is YES, with today's operating procedures/policies, with many (although not all) airline companies.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 13:46
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Irish Steve,
Well said, well written, thought provoking!!
411A,
Please leave PPRUNE !!!
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 13:56
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Guys, come on - the article quoted earlier states that the airline had missed only one step in applying the AD. The overall modification (i.e. installation of parts) required by the AD was implemented, some kind of a verification step was missed. This is likely attributable to some kind of a clerical error rather than a cut throat desire to bring down costs.

The FAA gave - I believe - six years to implement this AD - hardly a safety critical modification. Common sense would even challenge the logic of requiring a mod if clearly aircraft can continue flying without it for 6 years.

A quick look at the stats (NTSB - Aviation Accident Statistics) shows reality is not as grim as you paint it. Depending on how you count the volume of traffic has gone up by between 30%-50% but I don't really see a significant increase in accident rates over the past 20 years.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 13:57
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411A...I hope you don't leave PPRUNE> Sadly, you are right. For many years the idea that the FAA has a ''tombstone'' mentality has been well reported.

When did new deicing standards (on ground) come into being? After icing problems brought down airliners and killed people.

When did the latest wx radar to detect Microbursts/Windshear come into being? After a plane hit a microburst on a go around at KCLT (I was there watching).

When did ATC better coordinate instrument operations and change to a speed limit of 250 knots below 10,000'? When two planes collided over New York.

Nothing new...sorry if you don't know the reality of airline and aviation improvements.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 14:25
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Depending on how you count the volume of traffic has gone up by between 30%-50% but I don't really see a significant increase in accident rates over the past 20 years.
Due to GPWS and TCAS, think....

What magic boxes will help us keep the rate down during the next 20 years?
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 14:30
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Guys, come on - the article quoted earlier states that the airline had missed only one step in applying the AD.
You have obviously never been an engineer.

“This [AD] requires a modification of the air data computer (ADC) system, which involves installing certain new circuit breakers, relays, and related components, and making various wiring changes in and between the flight deck and main equipment center …
United had performed the hardware changes within that period, but failed to perform the functionality tests
That is almost equivalent to saying I have designed a new airliner but haven't tested it before it went into service.

This is more than a clerical error, it is disgraceful if you are fully aware of what is involved with AD's and I truly hope United have a very good answer should the above quote be correct. In fact there is now a real risk of pandorra's box being opened.

Just imagine an uncertified passenger jet entering into commercial service without being tested. How many departments have failed in their duty?

It doesn't bear thinking about.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 14:33
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why should 411a leave pprune. Is it a crime to state to the truth?

The industry is in an appalling mess and he is correct. It will take an accident to reverse the trend. Again, sad but true.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 15:59
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That is almost equivalent to saying I have designed a new airliner but haven't tested it before it went into service.
No the functionality test is to show the SB has been properly conducted on each individual aircraft. The testing to allow the issue of the SB had already been done by Boeing.

The airline industry is probably the most regulated industry after the nuclear power industry.
Thats part of the problem, airlines do not understand the hazards they face and how they are managed - if they are good they just follow the rule. If they are bad they just try to avoid being caught.

A proper safety case to control the release of unairworthy aircraft is what is needed.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 16:07
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I wasn't talking literally I was making the point about how many were involved in this "oversight" to get to a situation where an SB is only half performed.

This is serious.
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