Is Cost King When it Comes to Maintenance? FAA Oversight and Foreign Maintenance...

FrugalFlyer

Senior
Aug 20, 2002
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On 5/11/2003 11:31:48 PM Busdrvr wrote:
Just curious Frugal and Blissful, is ther ANY industry that you can name where YOU think it takes a little extra money to hire the very best?
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Apparently at UAL, they used to hire only the very best, and look how they (company and employees) ended up.
Sort of like the NY Rangers - all that money and talent and can't even make the playoffs.
The best job offer is not always the one that pays the highest salary.
 
OP
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RV4

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Aug 20, 2002
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On 5/11/2003 10:10:57 PM Winglet wrote:

I must'a missed something. What does a pilot's pension have to do with quality of maintenance? Does that mean that if I worked for free for the company, the maintenance on my aircraft would be even better? If you were trying to poke the pilot group in the eye, you missed.

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My point is that an underfunded pension that in my opinion has e[SIZE= 12pt]xuberant liabilites and lump sum payoffs lead to "cost cutting", and this "cost cutting" will make it into the maintenance budget area.

No I am not advocating that you work for free, although that would allow AA to get caught up on the under funding of your sacred cow faster.

I was not trying to poke anyone in the eye. The simple fact is that the Pilot group was the biggest advocate of avoiding chapter 11 because of the sacred cow, and to re-fund that cow, many in maintenance are now disgruntled with low morale, and AA is scraping for every penny at the overhaul maintenance centers.

I am sorry if you cannot see the link between "cost cutting" and the under funded sacred cow. I am hopeful you do not find that missing link the hard way![/SIZE]
 

Winglet

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Ok, now I understand what your motivation is. You can be a pilot hater all you want, but pensions aren't don't have squat to do with maintenance. Arpey will have the kind of maintenance he wants regardless of whatever underfunded (read that company legal liability) account he has. Why don't you advocate not paying aircraft leasors, etc?

And, as a matter of fact, Mr. RV4, I DIDN'T vote for that piece of cr*p TA that Mr. Darrah and 69% of the scared rabbits at the APA so easily acquieced to. As far as the APA is concerned, you might as well consider it dead. Like ALPA, APA is dead . . . . killed by management, poor leadership, and complete disunity within the rank and file.

You need to spend more time writing emails to Mr. Arpey vice trying to stick it to the 31% of pilots, like me, that voted against it. I like the mechanics at American, but I'll make an exception in your case.
 

Busdrvr

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Aug 20, 2002
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On 5/12/2003 12:39:04 AM FrugalFlyer wrote:

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On 5/11/2003 11:27:23 PM Busdrvr wrote:
There is little to no oversight and even less accountability. If Tramco once again missrigs the flight controls on a UAL or SWA jet (as they have in the past), and it results in an accident, who is accountable?
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Seems to me like SW is very satisfied with the work Tramco does on their jets. If not, then why not do the work in-house or switch to a BETTER contractor?


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Incredibly Blissful response. They continue to contract out because IT'S CHEAPER!!. They chose Tramco (or whoever) because THERE ARE NO BETTER OUTSIDE SOURCES. COST IS KING!!

Ignorance is Bliss
 

FrugalFlyer

Senior
Aug 20, 2002
254
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On 5/12/2003 9:18:50 AM Busdrvr wrote:

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On 5/12/2003 12:39:04 AM FrugalFlyer wrote:


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On 5/11/2003 11:27:23 PM Busdrvr wrote:

There is little to no oversight and even less accountability. If Tramco once again missrigs the flight controls on a UAL or SWA jet (as they have in the past), and it results in an accident, who is accountable?

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Seems to me like SW is very satisfied with the work Tramco does on their jets. If not, then why not do the work in-house or switch to a BETTER contractor?



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Incredibly Blissful response. They continue to contract out because IT''S CHEAPER!!. They chose Tramco (or whoever) because THERE ARE NO BETTER OUTSIDE SOURCES. COST IS KING!!


Ignorance is Bliss

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Right. Cost is king. Tramco does not only do it cheaper, but obviously at least as well as if not better than anybody else.
But because Tramco workers work for lower wages, or any other airline workgroup that works for less than UAL industry leading wages, obviously you think less of them, it''s blatantly obvious in all your posts.

Ignorance is bliss!!!
 

Busdrvr

Veteran
Aug 20, 2002
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On 5/12/2003 11:26:23 AM FrugalFlyer wrote:

Right. Cost is king. Tramco does not only do it cheaper, but obviously at least as well as if not better than anybody else.
But because Tramco workers work for lower wages, or any other airline workgroup that works for less than UAL industry leading wages, obviously you think less of them, it''s blatantly obvious in all your posts.

Ignorance is bliss!!!

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http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/tram23.shtml

Do you just post or do you actually research your opinions?


Ignorance is Bliss
 

NWA/AMT

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Aug 20, 2002
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On 5/12/2003 11:26:23 AM FrugalFlyer wrote:

Right. Cost is king. Tramco does not only do it cheaper, but obviously at least as well as if not better than anybody else.

Ignorance is bliss!!!

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Not necessarily. For the most part it has to do with the airlines being willing to lower their expectations and redefine what they are willing to accept and call a ''well-maintained'' aircraft. Unfortunately, the relentless drive to cut costs, along with an increased willingness on the part of airlines to accept less as long as they pay less, has made it so the vendors like Tramco are not expected to do it "at least as well as if not better than anybody else". As long as the maintenance is signed for (and the check is signed), everybody is happy.

I have had the opportunity to work for both an FAR145 repair station (not Tramco) and for two major airlines, one which did all it''s maintainance in-house and one which did not. I can tell you with certainty that the standards are quite different.

In many FAR145 repair stations the emphasis on keeping the cost of the check down, and meeting schedule, is much greater. The primary means of doing this is to perform maintenance to a different set of standards - only doing what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the check, re-using parts that by normal standards would be replaced, and de-emphasising the "preventative maintenance" aspects of the job. This effectively transfers a lot of the maintenance load back to the customer, when those parts fail or when something that should have been dealt with on a preventative basis in check fails when the aircraft is back in service, while allowing the vendor to meet cost and schedule.

One of the carriers I worked for used many different vendors, including Tramco, to perform much of it''s heavy maintenance and parts overhaul. I can tell you that when the aircraft came back from those vendors we had to spend quite a bit of time, and money, dealing with issues that would have been dealt with in check.

With the first carrier, which performed it''s maintenance in-house, we still had issues when an airplane came from check - but not to the extent or to the degree that I saw from the vendor-maintained aircraft at the other carrier. I never saw any that would be considered a safety-of-flight issue with the first carrier, I saw many with the second.

My objection to the outsourcing of maintenance has nothing to do with the wages the vendors pay, nor even with the "us and them" mentality that goes with that situation. It has to do with the continuing erosion of the standards for aircraft maintenance that we have seen in the last 20 years. There are some endeavors where worrying about cost should be secondary to worrying about safety, and commercial aviation used to be one of those. Even though no airline has ever gone out of business because it spent too much on maintenance, we will soon be able to see if one can go out of business because it spent too little. What constitutes an acceptable loss?

As one of my supervisors at the repair station used to say; "That''s what the airlines have insurance for."
 

Bob Owens

Veteran
Sep 9, 2002
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Rumor has it that AA is going to eliminate thru PS and PS/0912 checks. Nice to see that they are lowering their standards for maintenance. Maybe its time for another informational picket.

I believe that the company figures that they average 4 maint items found during these light checks per night. These items range from the trivial-reading light out, to somewhat more critical-low tire pressures, low oil qty, leaks etc.

While low tire pressure may not seem like a big deal there have been fatal aircraft disasters caused by tire failures. Low pressure is a common cause for tire failure.

The reason why they will no longer be checking tire pressures and other checks as frequently is because supposedly the company wants to focus on making repairs. Well its likely that there will be less repairs to do as a result of less inspections. Less inspections certainly does not make the aircraft safer. The logic is flawed. Its like saying if we dont look for the defects they dont exist.

We have seen this logic before. The A-300 has a problem with water accumulating in the fuel tanks. The company used to require, as part of an ER check to sump the fuel tanks prior to departure to drain out accumulated water. On the A-300 there was almost alwways a substantial amount of water. We did the same proceedure on the 767 but we rarely found much water.

During winter operations the water would not thaw, so the drain points or sumps would freeze up. If too many sumps were frozen the aircraft would be grounded. It would be considered unairworthy. The answer, eliminate draining the sumps. The sumps are likely still frozen but we do not check them anymore. The aircaft is still in reality just as unairworthy as it ever was when the sumps are frozen but because we are no longer supposed to check them away it goes. In fact if a mechanic decided to check them he would be risking his job for going far beyond the scope of his assignment. For some strange reason we continued to drain the sumps on other ER aircraft which did not have a water problem, and let the A-300 fly with water in the tanks.

Elimanating PS and thru checks would be a foolish move on the part of AA. Why eliminate that extra margin of safety than has been a part of this companies superior product for many years?
 
OP
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RV4

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On 5/12/2003 4:03:21 PM Bob Owens wrote:


Rumor has it that AA is going to eliminate thru PS and PS/0912 checks. Nice to see that they are lowering their standards for maintenance. Maybe its time for another informational picket.

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Was this included in our "shared sacrifice" contribution? Or is this one of those management add-ons as a reward for our leadership sellout?

I remember the last informational picket, the same sellout leader was opposed to that also!
 
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RV4

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More on the topic:

Unsafe Skies

[*]A CBS 2 Special Assignment Investigation

May 12, 2003 4:02 pm US/Pacific
(KCBS) In this CBS 2 Special Assignment, investigative reporter Drew Griffin looks at a crippled airline industry struggling to survive, and a growing trend that one whistleblower says is putting safety at risk.

The charges come from a former United mechanic, fired from his job, he says, after he voiced his concerns about what his airline was doing. That airline -- United -- is one of this nation''s and the world''s safest airlines, and calls the whistleblower a disgruntled ex-employee who is flat-out wrong. But if Tim Hafer is right, there is a danger in the air that no one has told you about.

Special Assignment: "Unsafe Skies" originally aired Monday, May 12, 2003 at 11 p.m.

He was a mechanic for United for eight years, responsible for the constant attention these multimillion-dollar machines require to stay safe.

"And I got to see the dirty laundry so to speak," Tim Hafer says.

And the dirty laundry that bothered Tim Hafer was a process called "outsourcing." United Airlines, like other airlines, has been firing its own mechanics and sending an increasing amount of its maintenance and repair work to subcontractors.

Drew Griffin: "You say it turns into a lower quality of maintenance?"

Hafer: "Yeah."

The problem, says Hafer, is that federal regulations allow subcontractors to hire unlicensed mechanics.

"They can get cheap labor and bring them in and as long as a certified person signs off on the work it''s okay," Hafer says.

But when an airline sends its maintenance outside the company, Hafer claims, the airline looses control. And in the case of United, he says his own documents show an airline that has lost control of its approval process, of its mechanics, of its safety.

Hank Krakowski is United''s vice president and chief safety officer. And as you will hear, he flatly rejects any argument that outsourcing jeopardizes safety.

"No, we don’t believe at all that our airplanes are out of our control," Krakowski says.


But internal United records uncovered by Special Assignment seem to show a different story -- a story Hafer says began in November of 2000, when United sent its entire fleet of 727s to a contractor in North Carolina -- the aviation maintenance company named TIMCO.

The contract called for electrical breakers inside each plane to be overhauled.

On United’s approval, TIMCO sent the work to yet another subcontractor.

The work was never done. Instead of overhauling the breakers, TIMCO’s subcontractor did something else.

Hafer: "They just cleaned them up and made them look shiny and put them back on the plane."

Griffin: "That’s borderline criminal."

Hafer: "Oh it;s criminal. You have seven potential firebombs on those planes."

Griffin: "How long did the planes fly?"

Hafer: "They flew around for about three of four months."

Krakowski: "We pulled them out of all the planes immediately, we quarantined the parts, there''s an FAA investigation going on as we speak."

In context of the oversight of these planes, and loosing control of these planes, what happened where the oversight did not work, because clearly it did not?

"Yea it surprised us too and I have to tell you it’s an unacceptable issue," Krakowski says.

But less than a year later, United was surprised again by outsourcing work here at TIMCO.

A United 737, with parts of its fuel system missing, was signed off by TIMCO and allowed to fly.

The plane flew an estimated 17 flights before anyone spotted the trouble. The FAA found out about it, and fined United $33,000. And those two incidents were only the beginning.

Combing through United''s computer records of other outsourced maintenance and repair work, Hafer found something missing.

The names of the mechanics that approved the work, the final inspectors, were not there, on job, after job.

Hafer: "Autopilot checks ... flap repairs, flight control repairs."

Who was giving the final computer sign-off for the outsource work? They turned out to be United office workers and secretaries.

Griffin: "So in terms of United, the quality control of maintenance ends with the secretary signing?"

Hafer: "In that situation, yeah."

Griffin: "You''re describing a very thin line between a safe flight and a disaster."

Hafer: "Oh yeah. It''s kinda like playing lottery in reverse. The other way around. You’re buying a ticket and you never know if you have that unlucky ticket."

Griffin: "This disgruntled employee is saying you guys have secretaries signing off on this work."

Krakowski: "Absolutely false, absolutely false."

All the work, Krakowski says, was inspected and approved by a qualified mechanic according to FAA regulations.

But that''s not what the FAA found when it looked into Hafer''s charges. In a letter to United, the FAA says it found "disparities" in the airline record keeping that violated federal regulations. And final work reports were filed by unqualified people.

Krakowski: "When the FAA brought this to our attention two years ago, we took action, we corrected it, that problem no longer exists. And in fact we got a letter from the FAA congratulating us on our responsiveness to that issue.

Mary Schiavo is the former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation and a vocal critic of the trend in the airline business to cut costs by outsourcing.

"Second only to security issues, outsourcing is the biggest problem facing the aviation industry today because it represents several problems coming to a head," Schiavo says. "I saw it in a Valujet tragedy. We are now seeing it in an U.S Airlines and Air Midwest crash from just this past January."

Schiavo: "The more you outsource the more you loose control over your safety and quality."


United doesn''t believe it. And in fact, like other airlines, is looking to increase the amount of maintenance work it sends outside the company, even hoping to send work overseas.

"Its cheaper, maintains good quality, so as a competitive issue we as a company are forced to look at every way to save money as well."

Griffin: "What would you say to people who fly today?"

Hafer: "Be very careful."

Since Hafer left United there have been several more suspected cases of shoddy repairs done by United’s subcontractors.

Just this past November, a United Aerbus landed with its nose gear wheels turned at a 90-degree angle. The gear had just been overhauled at a United outsourcing contractor. The NTSB has launched yet another investigation.
 

j7915

Senior
Sep 7, 2002
423
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As the ad used to say: quality goes in before the name goes on.

How many times is an MRO''s name publicized when there is an incident? Maybe if they had to paste the name of the latest overhaul provider next to the entry door, the way engine manufacturers used to have their name on the cowling we''ll see some public awareness.

The public accepts the statistical risks as long as they can fly on the cheap, and until there is an incident.