In Praise of Bureaucracy. An Inside Look at the FAA Inspired Crisis at AA
Editor’s Note: I realize this blog doesn’t usually cover airline affairs. However, I have had a number of conversations about the recent maintenance related groundings at AA, the pix & p had to reroute their trip on account of cancellations and this topic is all over the news. So when a friend of the family who works in a management role at AA recently sent me this harangue concerning the crisis, I thought it’d be interesting to post. I realize that the post does not strive for objectivity and overuses capitalizations and ellipses. But I can vouch for the competency of the source and thought you might like to hear an informed perspective on AA’s recent trials.
“As you may or may not know I work for American Airlines on the MD-80's here in Tulsa. I was directly involved with sending mechanics all around the country trying to make the FAA happy. My own MD-80 in the dock was also up for their inspection and was it a trial and tribulation in hypocrisy. I am now so disillusioned with the FAA. I had always had a somewhat positive attitude for them because of what they have to do. Theirs in undoubtedly a daunting task. But after this last bureaucratic mess I am now convinced their leadership and the inspectors on the airplanes have a fantastic degree in bureaucracy and most likely have never even changed spark plugs in their car let alone know about the silver thing with wings and the round thingies in back that are loud. Yes, there are excellent employees in the FAA and do a great job because they have common sense. Not this leadership group.
You cannot believe the idiocy we had to put up with. THIS WAS NEVER A SAFETY OR FLIGHT issue.....but basically how many tie wraps and washers there were and were they in the correct place. Total stupidity. I would have flown any of them with my granddaughter! As an example, we would get the FAA to sign off on an airplane in Dallas and as soon as it would get to Chicago another FAA inspector would ground the airplane that the job was not correct. This info came from a mechanic from my dock out in the field.....not hearsay. Because they got burned with Southwest they go after AA. They have no one to blame but themselves for not listening to those out in the field. What a crying shame the money lost, jobs in jeopardy, our customers so inconvenienced, the slander they put out or implied (we helped them write the original Airworthiness Directive because they don't know enough about the airplane)...............yet they don't care what overseas maintenance facilities do to our airplanes. These wires are connected to a hydraulic unit that is USED ONLY ON THE GROUND to get pressure for the brakes before engine start....not in the air.
Their priorities are skewed because of the butt chewing they are getting from Congress.............good. If they would ever really work with the airlines instead of trying to see what havoc they can cause maybe they could be a partner. But no, they are the FAA and know it all. BS. They are in it to move up the ladder all the while we lose 10's of millions of dollars, PR problems to last for years, while they sit back in their offices toasting each other on how they got 'American'. Congratulations Southwest Region FAA. Pat yourself on the back. Job well done for a bureaucrat. Good god, you must be so proud.
AA was only one of two airlines that did not go into bankruptcy (Southwest the other) in the last few years. Three airlines went out of business last week and another into bankruptcy Friday. The airline business takes an enormous amount of money to run, to but parts, and all these upstarts don't have a clue what it really takes. So we must be doing something, actually a hell of lot of things correct. The amount of money we spend on our maintenance is nothing short of staggering. Did you know the most junior mechanic can keep a jet form flying if he/she is concerned about an issue? I personally have not allowed a jet to be put into service until some additional items were reconfirmed. We take safety as the #1 PRIORITY. We have so many checks and balances......... Check with the others. Ever since I have been at American I really don't see how we do it. While, you can see by the Wall Street Journal article below the FAA is in for yet another PR debacle when even an outsider can see their never ending faults. I now really wonder, traffic delays, the Hoover law, understaffed control towers, the air traffic control system behind the times..........what really do they do right????? They always want accountability................who is watching those that watch us! Yes, the FAA will put a dandy spin on this. I can hardly wait to see it.
These are my own thoughts and I do not represent AA but there are a bunch of us who are just fit to be tied over this. We take our job VERY seriously. Remember, we and our families, like my granddaughter, fly these birds also.”