American Flew ‘Unairworthy’ Aircraft Says IG Report


The Transportation Department’s inspector general says the FAA allowed American Airlines to fly snagged and even non-airworthy aircraft without following up on whether repairs were made. According to an Associated Press report, the IG was generally critical of the performance of both the airline and the regulator in the new safety enforcement environment of safety management systems in which airlines are largely responsible for maintaining compliance and then reporting to the FAA. 

In one of the 185 cases examined by the IG, American flew an aircraft that was missing engine bushings and had improperly installed engine support struts 1,002 times with passengers before fixing it. The IG termed that plane “unairworthy.” Another aircraft flew for three years with an emergency slide that didn’t work. The FAA told AP it agreed with much of the report and was working on fixing the issues. American said it welcomed the input. “We plan to work with the FAA to ensure we take positive action and continuously refine and improve our safety controls.”

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  1. I wonder how often this type of story boils down to some stupid paperwork issue rather than an actual mechanical problem with an airplane. It’s pretty rare that a regulatory body (or even an on-hand inspector) actually finds a real physical problem in the world. They usually just find paperwork gaps.

    • These repetitive negative references to the safety management system concept have become trite. Safety management systems are only as good as the maturity and integrity of the human beings which they serve. The degree to which safety management systems are successful is more of a reflection on personnel behavior than it is on the SMS concept itself. If SMS doesn’t work for you or your company, It’s what’s in the mirror that’s the problem.