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Gonna Get Hell For Asking This....Plane Maintenance  
User currently offlineIlovenz From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 149 posts, RR: 1
Posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4621 times:

(and I also didn't mean to make the title vague, but I just wanted to acknowledge that I'm aware I might incense some people with this question)

With the airline industry these days fighting for profits any way they can, and with a U.S. government that is not known for its honesty or devotion to common people when it comes to making money, How do I know the planes I'm flying are safely maintained? Can I trust the safety of the planes I fly on in the U.S. and the government oversight that is at least supposed to exist? How do I know airlines are not cutting corners in maintenance checks when it would be a very easy way to save money doing so?

The "747-400 shot to hell" thread got me thinking about this. I realize many aircraft which are less-than-immaculate on the inside are nonetheless very safe overall.

-Sam

40 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10511 posts, RR: 64
Reply 1, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4586 times:

The problem with the American system is that bureaucrats set thousands of arbitrary standards for safety and then the airlines and manufacturers have little incentive to exceed them. The best way to ensure safety would be to make the airlines and manufacturers compete to provide better safety. To do this, just privatise the FAA, turning the inspection arm into something like Underwriters Laboratories. Then every airline would get (probably for every fleet) a score. Passengers could choose their airlines based on which provided the greatest safety.

One of my pet peeves is that airlines don't provide smoke hoods for passengers -- only for crew. If I had to choose between a life vest and a smoke hood, I'd rather have the smoke hood loaded. If the FAA were privatized, some airlines would start carry smoke hoods for all their passengers in order to achieve higher safety ratings. The same is true for every aspect of airline safety, from equipment to maintainance, to training, to crew rest.


User currently offlineAntiuser From Italy, joined May 2004, 657 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4578 times:

Airlines are cutting costs wherever they can, but I don't think they would skimp on maintenance. In the current market climate, an incident or crash due to bad maintenance would be a fatal blow to most carriers. Just my 2 cents...


Azzurri Campioni del Mondo!
User currently offlineCHRISBA777ER From UK - England, joined Mar 2001, 5964 posts, RR: 62
Reply 3, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4569 times:

Oh Boy.

This is a can of worms isnt it?

The simple fact is, that you have to trust that they are doing the right thing and that the people in the places that matter when it comes to MX are the right people who do not have an agenda other than the safety of the fleet.

I also think judging America's airlines on the basis of that country's politcal regime would be a mistake.

American, United, Delta, Northwest, Continental, Southwest, JetBlue, etc - all are fine companies with proud histories and they are a damn sight more honest and caring than the Bush regime. Although sometimes when you are on the phone to Delta customer services for two hours it may seem otherwise...  Wink



What do you mean you dont have any bourbon? Do you know how far it is to Houston? What kind of airline is this???
User currently offlineBackfire From Germany, joined Oct 2006, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 4474 times:

There will always be companies which will try to walk a fine line.

No-one intentionally sets out to have an accident, or create the circumstances for one. But it's hard to see eventual consequences of the occasional decision to trim costs here and there.

The initial reasoning might be sound, but when combined with later decisions down the line (which might equally seem OK), the whole thing can lead to an unintentional erosion of safety margins.


User currently offlineBNE From Australia, joined Mar 2000, 3183 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 4363 times:

I guess there are so many checks and double checks that are put in place so that planes are maintained properly.

One crash could really put an airline out of business.

Quoting Ilovenz (Thread starter):
(and I also didn't mean to make the title vague, but I just wanted to acknowledge that I'm aware I might incense some people with this question)

So I added a bit so it wasn't so vague.



Why fly non stop when you can connect
User currently offlineChqdispatch From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 50 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 4330 times:

Working closely with my MX guys every day, there is no fear on my part. I know they do a good job and get problems resolved.

User currently offlinePhilSquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 4326 times:

Poor maintenance in the airline industry is an easy way to put yourself out of business very quickly.

In the short term, there may be some savings but in the long term the company will pay dearly. Generally, with today's commercial transports, if maintenance is deferred you do save money in the short run by not completing the inspection/job. However, what happens is in the long term dispatch reliability starts to suffer. You get a lower and lower completion rate, you have multiple inflight diversions, the list goes on and on.

As a commercial pilot, I have no problem with the oversight. I find that the mechanics have my and the passenger's best interests at heart. They know their reputation is on the line every time they release the aircraft to me. In my 25+ years of commercial aviation, I've never had a second thought about taking an aircraft if the mechanic signed it off.

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 1):
One of my pet peeves is that airlines don't provide smoke hoods for passengers -- only for crew.

So, who gives you the initial training and recurrent training? What happens if someone can't use the hood? Does the airline let them fly? I understand what your point is, but it simply isn't practical. Who becomes liable if the hood doesn't work? Why not ask for an ejection seat?


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13985 posts, RR: 62
Reply 8, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 4298 times:

Actually it depends on us guys on the ground to do the MX properly. We are personally responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft, both in accordance to criminal prosecution as well as civil liability. In short: If I f*ck up and there is an accident because of this I go to jail.

Unfortunately the bea counters in management see us only as a cost factor. Proper maintenance costs a lot of $$$, but doesn't bring any visible short term profit. Therefore the beancounters are very reluctant in providing us with the staff, equipment, tools and materials we need.

I actually wish that the aviation authorities would put more pressure on the airlines and MX companies, e.g. through more unannounced audits. The Irish Aviation Authority under which's jurisdiction I'm currently working, is actually quite strict, what can not be said of the FAA.
I think the biggest problem with the FAA is that they have two sometimes contradicting jobs: On one hand they have to enforce the regulations and on the other hand they have to promote aviation.
This leads to a situation where rules don't really get enforced because enforcement will led to higher expenses for the airlines and can bring them into economic difficulties. The IAA on the other hand only enforces the rules.

Jan


User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10511 posts, RR: 64
Reply 9, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 4296 times:

Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 7):
So, who gives you the initial training and recurrent training? What happens if someone can't use the hood? Does the airline let them fly? I understand what your point is, but it simply isn't practical. Who becomes liable if the hood doesn't work? Why not ask for an ejection seat?

There are smoke hoods that require no more training than a life vest. All of the objections you raise apply just much to life vests as to smoke hoods. See: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&c2coff=1&q=evac+u8+smoke+hood


User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13073 posts, RR: 12
Reply 10, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4282 times:

There are a number of incentives beyond government run inspections to maintain high an very safe levels of MX quality.
The fear of liability, losing customers or even their continued existance if have a fatal crash or serious incidents, is of course of great influence. Pressure from their insurance providers including higher premium costs and thus higher operational costs if there are accidents and incidents, is an additional incentive. MX people also have a huge personal responsibility and their butts on the record on paper or computers as to each aircraft for their work - especially when something goes wrong. The AS crash several years ago caused by an improperly maintained rudder jackscrew shows where perhaps cheaping or procedural errors as to maintence can be fatal. Poor MX can also cause a/c to have to be diverted, have to make emergency landings with there huge costs to the airline and inconvenience to customers, also leading to losing customers.


User currently offline707437 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 152 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4269 times:

Well if you're looking for an example the Alaskair MD-80 trim screwjack that failed several years ago. IMO that was cutting corners. . .

Alaska has cleaned up its act and I have flown with them several times since. But it can happen, though recently I'm not aware of any US majors having any MX related incident that resulted in injury or fatality.

Myself I've flown on a single engine 767, On a 757 with a blown main gear tire on a 732 that appeared to have brakes on only the left side and on a DC9 with a failed autopilot and a poor job of hand flying (some pilots can earn their pay and some will spill your coffee). So shit breaks all the time but seek salvation for redundancy.


User currently offlineCHRISBA777ER From UK - England, joined Mar 2001, 5964 posts, RR: 62
Reply 12, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4247 times:

"shit breaks all the time but seek salvation for redundancy"

Thats my new tagline.  Smile



What do you mean you dont have any bourbon? Do you know how far it is to Houston? What kind of airline is this???
User currently offline707437 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 152 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4232 times:

I meant to say:

"So shit breaks all the time but seek salvation in redundancy."

Cheers,

KKP in KPAE

These days with the almighty W ruling our fair land it doesn't hurt to sound a bit evangleical (even if tainted by sarcasm).


User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10511 posts, RR: 64
Reply 14, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4218 times:

Quoting 707437 (Reply 11):
Well if you're looking for an example the Alaskair MD-80 trim screwjack that failed several years ago. IMO that was cutting corners. . .

That was following government rules, rather than the profit motive. When an airline decides based on the profit motive when to replace a part, it gets replaced if it is anywhere near spec. When one is simply working to spec (as encouraged by government mandates) then one put off replacing a part as long as legally permitted. If the airlines were free set their own MX rules and there were a body like Underwriters Laboratories to rate them, then lower insurance costs alone would be a powerful incentive to maintain very high standards. So would dispatch reliability.


User currently offlineMD80fanatic From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 2660 posts, RR: 9
Reply 15, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4207 times:

The Evac-U8 unit looks interesting. Although I bet money the TSA would not allow you to take it aboard with you thinking you may have plans to fill the cabin with smoke and use your hood to avoid it. Great idea anyway, DuPont!!!  Smile

User currently offlinePhilSquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4198 times:

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 9):
There are smoke hoods that require no more training than a life vest

Your reference provides unlimited links to Evac U8 hoods. Please take a look at the links you provided. I would suggest if you are that concerned, then buy one!

Your analogy to the life vest isn't quite true. The smoke hoods are more complex and require training. Like how to put them PROPERLY in a dark smoke filled environment. Personally, I'd rather have the hood than the live vest!

There are many things the airlines could do to make travel safer. However, it all comes at a cost. To be honest, the average person in the US doesn't care. They want the cheapest flight from point A to B. Look at the US airline industry now, they can't make a profit to save their lives.


User currently offlineMasseyBrown From United States of America, joined Dec 2002, 5402 posts, RR: 7
Reply 17, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 4125 times:

Quoting CHRISBA777ER (Reply 3):
I also think judging America's airlines on the basis of that country's politcal regime would be a mistake.

The US has had sleazy politicians for about 229 years now; but the bureaucracy of the federal government at the working level is pretty much immune to them. (I'm not sure I would say that about state and local bodies, however.) There is sufficient provision for whistle-blowing that I wouldn't worry about government complicity in avoiding maintenance regulations.

At the company level the story is different. There are all kinds of ways to skimp. That's why people used to avoid the "non-scheduled" airlines of 30 years ago and still do avoid small airlines in certain parts of the world.

If you're worried, judge by the airline's reputation.



I love long German words like 'Freundschaftsbezeigungen'.
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13985 posts, RR: 62
Reply 18, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 4100 times:

Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 10):
There are a number of incentives beyond government run inspections to maintain high an very safe levels of MX quality.
The fear of liability, losing customers or even their continued existance if have a fatal crash or serious incidents, is of course of great influence. Pressure from their insurance providers including higher premium costs and thus higher operational costs if there are accidents and incidents, is an additional incentive.

The problem is that most CEOs today only think ahead to the next quarterly results. Quality MX costs money in the short run, but saves it in the long run, but very few CEOs, especially since many today haven't grown up inside the industry, don't really understand this.
I have heard one manager calling cutting corners "risk management". Push the risk to the subordinates, like the mechanics, but harvest the profits from short term savings.
If an accident happens, the mechanic will be made the scape goat (after all his signature is on all job cards and tech log pages), and the management will say that this mechanic was just a bad apple, who fell through the net.
That there is often a company culture, which rewards sloppy maintenance by putting pressure on the mechanics to let not really airworthy aircrft fly (in many airline, though nover put on paper and not openly outspoken, it is a greater crime to ground an aircraft or to cause a delay than to sign off an aircraft against regulations. You will not get fired for grounding an aircraft, because it would be illegal, but in some airlines, if you delay or ground aircraft too often for valid MX reasons, you'll be the next to be made redundant. It takes strong nerves to act against such pressure.).

On the other hand I was surprised how well maintained the aircraft of the European LCC I currently work for, are. The cosmetics of the interior might not be to smart and the aircraft not too clean, but from a maintenance point of view they are very well maintained.

Jan


User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 4054 times:

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 1):
The best way to ensure safety would be to make the airlines and manufacturers compete to provide better safety. To do this, just privatise the FAA, turning the inspection arm into something like Underwriters Laboratories. Then every airline would get (probably for every fleet) a score. Passengers could choose their airlines based on which provided the greatest safety.

So your proposing to implement something that would be subjective in nature. How exactly would this score based system operate. Do you have any details? Since the FAA is undermaned who's going to pay for all the new inspectors you would have to hire? Also since it would be a private organization who would enforce federal rules and regulations if they found violations. After all enforcement of federal laws, rules and regulations is the domain of federal agencies.

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 14):
That was following government rules, rather than the profit motive. When an airline decides based on the profit motive when to replace a part, it gets replaced if it is anywhere near spec. When one is simply working to spec (as encouraged by government mandates) then one put off replacing a part as long as legally permitted. If the airlines were free set their own MX rules and there were a body like Underwriters Laboratories to rate them, then lower insurance costs alone would be a powerful incentive to maintain very high standards. So would dispatch reliability.

There are no government rules in regards to jack screw wear limits. The manufacturer sets those. Now please tell me why having a "profit motive" would have meant the part would have been replaced.


User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10511 posts, RR: 64
Reply 20, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3952 times:

Quoting MD80fanatic (Reply 15):
The Evac-U8 unit looks interesting. Although I bet money the TSA would not allow you to take it aboard with you thinking you may have plans to fill the cabin with smoke and use your hood to avoid it. Great idea anyway, DuPont!!!



Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 16):
Your reference provides unlimited links to Evac U8 hoods. Please take a look at the links you provided. I would suggest if you are that concerned, then buy one!

I do own one and the TSA has never given me any grief beyond asking what it is. They have given me grief over countless obviously harmless things.

Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 16):
Personally, I'd rather have the hood than the live vest!

We agree on that.

Quoting LMP737 (Reply 19):
So your proposing to implement something that would be subjective in nature. How exactly would this score based system operate. Do you have any details? Since the FAA is undermaned who's going to pay for all the new inspectors you would have to hire? Also since it would be a private organization who would enforce federal rules and regulations if they found violations. After all enforcement of federal laws, rules and regulations is the domain of federal agencies.

It would not be anymore subjective or arbitrary than limits set by bureaucrats. Anyway, you missed my point. All the federal regs should be eliminated. Inspections would be paid for by the airlines. If they don't pay, they don't get rated. If they don't get rated, they don't get insurance. With no safety rating and no insurance, they would get very, very few customers. Not enough to survive in business.


User currently offlineTod From Denmark, joined Aug 2004, 1724 posts, RR: 3
Reply 21, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3896 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 8):
actually quite strict, what can not be said of the FAA.

The depends on the region/directorate.

The FAA requirements that I am currently required to meet are stricter than any CAA, JAA, EASA, JCAB, LBA, etc. requirements that I face.

Tod


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13985 posts, RR: 62
Reply 22, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3873 times:

Well, I have experience with the LBA (who are quite often too bureaucratic, hence in German they have the nick name Luftfahrtbehinderungsamt, aviation obstruction department), the Irish Aviation Authority, the British CAA and the FAA. IMO, both the CAA and the IAA have a pragmatic approach while making sure that the rules are being followed, while the FAA in my experience is rather lax and obedient to the company's management. The EASA rules are being enforced by the local aviation authority.

Jan


User currently offlineTod From Denmark, joined Aug 2004, 1724 posts, RR: 3
Reply 23, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 3863 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 22):
Luftfahrtbehinderungsamt,

Can't argue with that. rotfl 

Tod


User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 3835 times:

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 20):
It would not be anymore subjective or arbitrary than limits set by bureaucrats. Anyway, you missed my point. All the federal regs should be eliminated. Inspections would be paid for by the airlines. If they don't pay, they don't get rated. If they don't get rated, they don't get insurance. With no safety rating and no insurance, they would get very, very few customers. Not enough to survive in business.

If it's not anymore subjective or arbitrary as you say then why replace it? If all federal regs were eliminated what would take their place. And please come up with something better than "inpsectors" from something like Underwriters. You say the inspections would be paid for by the airlines. Don't you think there would be a possible conflict of interest in such a set up. The airlines paying for someone to inspect them.

By the way, is there something inherently unsafe about how the current system is set up? Are airlines crashing planes left and right? Are manufacturers building aircraft that are dangerous?


25 Tod : If UL assessed airworthness in a manner comparable to their safety assessment of some electrical components I've used, then I think I'd rather walk.
26 Lowrider : I think the original question is based on a flawed premise. How an aircraft looks has little to do with how it is maintained or functions. If an airli
27 BrownBat : I really don't know what the U.S government has to do with aircraft maintenance since it's the FAAs responsibility to regulate U.S aviation. Rest assu
28 EMBQA : Because the A&P mechanics that work on them are criminally liable for the work they perform, and they have no intention of going to jail if something
29 Post contains images Electech6299 : As someone with responsibility for public safety, and professionally trained to wear smoke hoods (as well as other types of respirators), I have to d
30 LMP737 : Very well put. As I pointed out before it's not like there's a safety crisis in aviation here in the states. What Zvezda purposes is basically tearin
31 HAWK21M : What do you do Exactly...Fire service. Very true. regds MEL
32 Mandala499 : Here's the sad truth... Skip on maintenance? Nothing new... BUT... 1. They either find out the result with a smoking hole in the ground.... 2. They go
33 Amtrosie : I just want to reiterate. The FAA may regulate- but the mechanics ensure the maintenance is performed to standards.... bottom line, when the mechanic
34 VC-10 : If you want to discuss Smoke Hoods please start a fresh topic - thank you
35 Eilennaei : Who does appoint the key people of FAA? Does the FAA issue anything on aviation maintenance?
36 Post contains links Tod : For the US laws regulating the FAA: click here Tod
37 HAWK21M : Out here the Quality Control Department headed by a QCM [Quality Control Manager is the Airline link to the Regulatory Authorities [DGCA]. The QCM & i
38 Jeb94 : The FARs are still the same no matter who is the president or who is in congress. The regulations are the same, the penalties for violating the regula
39 Eilennaei : I should think they must and will follow all applicable regulations, no matter what their age is. Even FARs do get updated and changed, and that proc
40 Amtrosie : The top two or three individuals are political appointees, but the rest of the FAA are career individuals. As with any government entity, there is a
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