This is APA Vice President Captain Tom Westbrook with the APA Information Hotline for Tuesday, April 8.
S80 GROUNDING AND RE-INSPECTIONS PART III: After inconveniencing tens of thousands of our customers two weeks ago by failing to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directive affecting S-80 aircraft, American Airlines announced this afternoon that it is effectively grounding the entire S-80 fleet to re-inspect the re-inspection.
Although CEO Gerard Arpey was quoted in today's press release saying that management has been "working in good faith to ensure that we are in complete compliance," a spot inspection performed by the FAA yesterday suggested otherwise. Today's groundings will affect at least 700 flights today, with hundreds more expected tomorrow.
Management continues to claim that these inspections are not safety-of-flight issues. However, the original airworthiness directive was issued "to prevent shorted wires or arcing at the auxiliary hydraulic pump, which could result in loss of auxiliary hydraulic power, or a fire in the wheel well of the airplane."
The directive continues: "The actions specified by this AD are also intended to reduce the potential of an ignition source adjacent to the fuel tanks, which, in combination with flammable fuel vapors, could result in a fuel tank explosion and consequent loss of the airplane."
Today's actions were the result of an FAA ramp inspection Monday of nine S-80s to make sure the jets had been properly inspected and modified. All nine failed the audit.
At this time, management reports that there are 290 aircraft still in need of inspection, a process that should take two to three days. They expect to have 130 of those inspections completed tonight. Management is chartering aircraft to get specially-trained maintenance personnel to the grounded aircraft. Once the planes are inspected, they will either be repaired on site or they will be ferried to a maintenance station.
The APA Safety Committee advises all pilots to exercise extreme caution during the period of confusion and heightened FAA scrutiny of American Airlines operations. The results of the S-80 inspection may not be recorded in the E6 logbook. All S-80 pilots are encouraged to contact Tulsa maintenance and receive verification of the inspection status of their aircraft prior to departure. Document all problems associated with the inspections using an ASAP report.
APA is scheduled to meet with management tomorrow to discuss pay protection related to this issue. APA expects management to "do the right thing" and protect the pay of the pilots affected by this management failure.
Be sure to check out APA's Web site or APANegotiations.com for the new edition of Pilot Perspective, which highlights American's management-caused reliability issues and includes a piece on the recent S-80 groundings.
That's all for today. Thanks for checking this hotline, and stay tuned for more information on pay protection related to this grounding and updates on the S-80 fleet returning to service.