Suits Allege C-17 Maintenance Coverup

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Lawsuits by two United Air Lines mechanics contend that documents were falsified and corners cut in a maintenance contract for the military's C-17 Globemaster transports. The documents, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, allege that mechanics were told to hide evidence of oil leaks in the engines and to say on documents that they'd properly torqued bolts when they used ordinary wrenches. The company declined specific comment on the claims and the military says it isn't worried about the safety of the aircraft. However, Doug Niven, who was fired by United in May of 2001, said "numerous" C-17 engines leak oil through the fuel oil heat exchangers and he and other mechanics were told to take action to cover up the leaks. Another United mechanic, Larry James, alleged in his suit that airline managers and officials of Pratt and Whitney, which make the C-17 engines, pressured him to change a report about a damaged fuel injector in 2000. United says it has a good reputation for its "meticulous approach" to maintenance and that it "thoroughly reviews all allegations of improper conduct."