Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is the FAA targeting American Airlines?

American's fleet of MD-80's, which have been carrying passengers for 20 years, all of a sudden became unsafe to fly, with American canceling hundreds of flights and stranding 250,000 passengers.
How come the sudden change from reliable passenger hauler to safety of flight hangar queen? Could it be the FAA inspectors have a grudge against American? And after the Oberstar house hearings last week, no one is going to challenge a line inspector on anything.
According to the Wall St Journal, the MD-80 furore involves the spacing of wire tiedown clips (Adel clamps) . FAA was complaining that the clips weren't on a ONE INCH spacing. In a prior life I was a flight line supervisor. If the wire bundles were secured with Adel clamps every 12 inches we were happy. I never heard of any aircraft requiring tiedown clamps on a one inch spacing. The clamps are 1/2 inch wide, space them every inch and you might as well put the wires into conduit.
The Air Worthiness directive that caused all this trouble was only issued in early March. Surely they might allow a little more time to comply with an Air Worthiness directive without grounding the MD-80 fleet and stranding 250,000 passengers.
Then the the paper pushers came up for air. FAA will now allow carriers to submit their their interpretations of maintenance rules to the FAA for approval before they instruct their mechanics. This ain't right. Aircraft are maintained by the book. There is one book for each aircraft, written by the maker's engineering department. We don't write separate books for each airline. let alone have FAA approve each airline's special book. We stick to the right book, with no variations. Sounds like FAA is demanding each airline paraphrase the maker's book and submit the paraphrases for FAA approval. That will keep a bunch of GS paper pushers employed for decades.
Aircraft are complex, and no one on the flight line pretends that he knows everything about the aircraft. Instead, everyone has a copy of the book. When questions as to proper procedure arise (and they do, trust me) everyone pulls down their copy of the book. And complies with it. No arguments. If it's in the book, we do it by the book. And we have one book for everyone. Even FAA inspectors should be going by the book. They should not be re writing the book.
Good thing I don't fly much any more. Bad enough they want me to take off my shoes. Worse they now cancel my flight and leave me stuck at the airport.

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