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FAA Grandstanding Or A Safety Issue MD80 Airplanes Grounded For Inspection
500 flights cancelled due to the grounding of 300 planes.
After American Airlines cancelled 500 more flights Tuesday, April 8, for the second time in two weeks, the public is wondering what is going on in the aircraft industry.
The reason for the cancellation of the flights is due to the grounding of 300 MD-80 airplanes, requiring additional inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration. These planes are being pulled for emergency inspections involving the spacing and direction of cords used to secure bundles of wires in the auxiliary hydraulic systems.
In a random check done on several of their planes by an FAA inspector on Monday, it was found that some of the work performed on the planes last month didn't meet with the agency's standards.
American Airlines said they were not "safety-of-flight issues" but are related to detailed, technical compliance issues; nevertheless the planes have been grounded until further service can be done.
New inspections required at an expense of $10 million.
American is now conducting new inspections on all the grounded planes with a three person team that includes a maintenance technician, a quality assurance inspector and an engineer. The airlines feel the cost of this move could be close to $10 million in lost revenue and expenses when it is all completed.
The FAA and the aircraft industry are too closely related.
The airlines themselves feel that the grounding of the planes is being done to make a political statement, which is being made in the wake of a congressional investigation that challenged the relationship of the FAA and the airline industry. Many critics of the FAA have made suggestions that these two industries are too closely related and this has resulted in lax enforcement of safety standards.
At a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week, several FAA inspectors testified that some of the supervisors in the agency's Dallas office had a "cozy relationship" with Southwest Airlines. Southwest was required last month to ground 38 of its Boeing 737s to inspect for potentially dangerous fuselage cracks that had been missed in the March 2007 inspections. The FAA fined Southwest a record $10.2 million dollar fine for this negligence, which Southwest has challenged.
Imagine that, an industry that applies the terms, "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" in their work ethics, is it possible? There are several problems with this type of mentality especially when it gets in the way of actual safety issues.
Pilots stress, safety first!
Even though American stressed the fact that the planes were grounded for simple technical issues, officials from the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents American's pilots considered the lapse "worrisome." They feel that is must be a safety issue to have grounded aircraft twice in two weeks.
The safety directive that was issued for the condition of the wiring stated that a short circuit or spark in the wires could cause the plane to lose some auxiliary power or start a fire in the wheel well. It could also "result in a fuel tank explosion and consequent loss of the airplane." This sounds like pretty serious stuff to me.
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Three major airlines to claim bankruptcy in the last month.
More airlines have been grounded, showing a great financial loss in the future for the companies themselves.
The grounding of flights has not been limited to Southwest and American, in recent weeks Delta Air Lines, United Air Lines, American Eagle and U.S. Airways have also felt the crunch as they have been required to be grounded for inspections. Because this focus comes however at a time when we have had a lengthy period of safe air travel, some argue that the FAA's crackdown is simply due to "grandstanding." There has not been a fatal accident amongst the major carriers since November 2001 when an American jet crashed in New York.
Whatever the reason for the additional attention, it simply couldn't have come at a worse time for the airline industry. With rising fuel prices and an unstable economy, many of the companies are reporting additional losses and perhaps foreseeing a future of bankruptcy.
What does the future hold for the comsumer?
"I don't expect to see better airline performance in the near future. There's no incentive," Headley said. "The airlines are losing money. Fuel prices are high. They're cutting back on services. They're cutting back on people. Everything it takes to run an airline is more expensive, and the airlines want less of that expense."
Who ranked high in the Airline Quality Report for 2008.
The top ranking spot in the 18th annual national Airline Quality Report was given to Air Tran, who gained this ranking because of their superior baggage handling. Overall the rankings for entire industry as a whole has shown a decline in the 2007 yearly ratings, ranking the worst AQR ever, comparing only to the ratings of the year 2000.
The AQR scores for the largest airlines for 2007 resulted in the following ranking:
1. Air Tran
2. Jet Blue
11. US Airways
15. American Eagle
16. Atlantic Southeast