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AA accused of pressuring mechanics to disregard safety

A workers union in the US has launched legal proceedings against American Airlines (AA) accusing the carrier of encouraging mechanics to put turnaround times ahead of safety rules and victimising engineers that have spoken out.

Local 591 of the Transport Workers Union is suing AA for breaches of labour rules alleging that its members in Chicago and Dallas have been put “under management pressure to disregard FAR and IAW standards”.

“Throughout 2014 we have experienced an ugly corporate culture that seems to emphasise pushing planes back into revenue service over all other considerations,” claimed Gary Peterson, president of Local 591, in a letter explaining the court case.

Local 591 says that a number of its members have filed formal complaints with the US department of labor and the allegations, which are under FAA investigation, are shocking.

AA managers and supervisors stand accused of encouraging technicians to “resort to maintenance fraud to improve efficiency”.

This includes pressurising mechanics to not perform lightning and bird strike inspections unless the incident had been witnessed, “despite clear evidence of damage”; to “deviate from federally-mandated maintenance procedures”; and to “otherwise violate federal aviation standards”.

Furthermore, the union claims that staff who reported issues were singled out and discriminated against.

In its complaint the union alleges that its members were threatened with disciplinary action and with the termination of their contracts.

AA has rejected Local 591’s claims stating that its maintenance practices and compliance with safety rules are “second to none”.

With spokesperson Casey Norton confirming that the airline had not been contacted by the FAA with regards to any “critical issues or concerns”.

In the commercial aviation sector, where the adage “time is money” is a holy mantra, the pressures on MRO workers to ensure tight turnarounds is immense.

But the idea that any airline representative could encourage technicians to ignore vital and mandatory safety checks is truly shocking.

This industry lives and dies by its reputation for safety.

Maintenance teams and their management cannot leave any room for doubt in their commitment to meeting safety standards.

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