Shoddy work


Nov 19, 2002
Does anyone think that UAL agreed to settle this because they did nothing wrong??

United to pay $3.2M to settle safety allegations

By Marilyn Adams, USA TODAY

United Airlines has agreed to pay the government and a whistle-blower $3.2 million to settle allegations of substandard maintenance work on military transport planes for the Air Force.

Under the proposed settlement agreement, filed Monday in federal court in South Carolina, United denies all allegations brought by the whistle-blower, a former United mechanic who worked on the C-17 planes. The settlement must be approved by the South Carolina judge and the judge in United''s bankruptcy reorganization case.

The allegations were brought by former mechanic Douglas Niven of Charleston, S.C. United helps maintain the engines on C-17 planes at Charleston Air Force Base under a federal contract. Niven''s allegations were brought under the federal False Claims Act and were investigated by the U.S. attorney''s office in South Carolina and the Air Force. The U.S. attorney''s office did not return a call seeking comment.

The maintenance allegations had delayed United''s receipt of a $388 million federal tax refund. In March, United sued the government to recoup the refund. The government agreed to release $360 million but withheld the rest partly because of the allegations.

Niven, 43, alleged United fired him in 2001 after he resisted and reported what he considered unsafe maintenance practices on the engines. After his discharge, he alleged United pressured his new employer at the base, AAI, to also fire him, which it did.

Niven, will get 20% of the settlement, but United will not reinstate him. He says he has been unable to return to aircraft maintenance.

This is definitely a vindication, but I lost a career over this, Niven said. United threatened me with the loss of my job unless I falsified documents. I''d worked for them 11 years at Chicago O''Hare airport and never saw anything like this.

United has not disciplined managers who fired him, he said.

Our commitment to safety remains our No. 1 priority, said United spokesman Chris Brathwaite. Both sides avoided the time and expense of litigation.

Brathwaite said the case didn''t prevent United from keeping the contract on the C-17s.

In a court complaint made public this week, Niven alleges the airline refused to provide mechanics with necessary tools and equipment, attempted to hide oil or fuel leaks in engines, and pressured mechanics to falsify reports.