Union Representing American Airlines Pilots Warns There Has Been a ‘Significant Spike’ in Safety Issues

by State Brief

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union that represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, has warned about a “significant spike” in safety problems on board the airline’s planes.

In an April 13 memo, the union wrote that it has been “tracking a significant spike in safety- and maintenance-related problems in our operation. While United Airlines is currently under public and government scrutiny, it could just as easily be American Airlines.”

The union wrote about “problematic trends” that they are seeing, which included:

  • Tools left in wheel wells.
  • An increasing number of collisions between aircraft being tugged or towed.
  • Improperly closed out maintenance actions with repeat writeups (sometimes 20 or more in a row).
  • The removal of overnight maintenance checks unless the aircraft is written up or due scheduled maintenance.
  • Pressure to return aircraft to line service to maintain on-time performance due to a lack of spares.
  • Improperly issued Engineering Authorizations for damaged aircraft repositions.
  • The absence of proper Special Flight Permits on international maintenance ferry flights.
  • The abbreviation of Functional Check Flights when aircraft return to service after heavy maintenance or long-term storage.
  • Increased intervals between routine aircraft inspections.
  • An increasing number of items left in the safe area near jet bridges.

The union urged pilots, “Remember: Don’t rush, don’t be intimidated, and don’t be pressured into doing something that doesn’t pass the ‘smell test.’ Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it safe. Be mindful of the hazards while operating on the ramps and taxiways in congested airports staffed with inexperienced controllers and ground personnel.”

In a subsequent memo, posted on April 15, APA President Ed Sicher wrote that the union has met with senior management at American Airlines “to discuss the operational hazards we have identified.”

Sicher added, “Thanks to the diligent efforts of the APA Safety Committee and Maintenance and Technical Analysis Committee, we now have management’s full attention. We secured management’s commitment to involve the union earlier in the safety risk assessment (SRA) process, and we are likewise seeking a commitment that APA will have a seat at the table for the entire quality assurance process. APA is squarely focused on finding solutions – which will require collaboration between the union and management – and management’s initial response to our concerns was encouraging.”

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