Monday, April 07, 2003
Urgent Letter regarding United Airlines from:
1536 Malcolm Avenue
Los Angeles, CA,
In order to put what you are about to read in proper perspective, I would like to inform you that on Thursday, March 27th, a United 747-400 on approach to LAX, diverted to Ontario Airport due to flight control difficulties. After some tests and a ferry flight the next day to Los Angeles, it was signed off on the 29th as ï¿½OK for serviceï¿½, without any mechanical work to correct this anomaly.
?AMSDIS / 8180 / ALL/ 27 - / F / 4422001 ACFT DATA DISPLAY
4422002 29MAR LAX ACP URING DESCENT AT 14K', WITH A-P ON AND
ALSO OFF, USED SPEED BRAKE AND NOTICED CONTROL WHEEL TURNING
LEFT. STATUS PAGE SHOWS FLIGHT SPOILERS EXTENDED ON LEFT SIDE, L
WING ONLY. WITH SB HANDLE IN RETRACTED POSITION, L SIDE SPOILERS
RETRACTED AND CONTROL NORMAL. CONSULTED WITH SAM & DIVERTED TO
ONT. - ITEM ROLLED FORWARD :SEE REF4412002 ACCOMPLISHED TEST
PER MM27-61-00 PG501.SEE REF 4422001 ACCOMPLIS HED TEST ITEM C
MM 27-61-00 PG 501.ALL SPOILERS CHECKED GOOD.ON FERRY FLIGHT
FROM ONT TO LAX CREW HAD NO FLIGHT CONTROL GRIPES.A LL SURFACES
TRIMED TO ZERO.TALKED TO LM ROGER.AIRCRAFT OK FOR SE RVICE LAXMM
INSP: MR:N POS: ATA:274000-84
In 2001, I was employed at United Airlines Maintenance Base in San Francisco. I was a Warranty Coordinator in The Contract Administration Dept. SFOOX. This dept. is responsible for the administration of contracts with outside vendors performing overhauls of United aircraft. If you remember the ValueJet Disaster a few years ago, that accident was a result of negligence during a 3rd party overhaul or HMV, Heavy Maintenance Visit. The repair stations that United uses were BE Aerospace/Tramco in Washington, Mobile Aerospace in Alabama, and Timco in North Carolina. This "outsourcing" by United resulted in several dangerous incidents reported in Forbes Magazine on 04/01/02. (SEE BELOW).
Beginning in February 2001, I turned over to the FAA, about 10 pounds of documents. These showed unlicensed secretarial personnel illegally signing off as airworthy, maintenance gripes on aircraft being overhauled by 3rd party repair stations. I also included numerous examples of their shoddy maintenance including a complete UAL internal documents package showing that its entire fleet of twenty-four 727 aircraft had been operating in 2000 with bogus engine generator breakers. Contract Vendor, Timco in North Carolina had installed these. FAA inspectors gave my name to United and I was subsequently terminated on May 30, 2001. I filed a whistleblowing case under The Wendell Ford Aviation Act with The Dept. of Labor in August of 2001. It was set for a court hearing before an ALJ in May of last year. The Judge abruptly cancelled the hearing and dismissed the case on June 11th because of legal procedural technicalities having nothing to do with the illegal acts I reported. His ruling is posted on the following website:
My duties at United's San Francisco Maintenance Base were to extract repair records from UAL's Aircraft Maintenance Information System (AMIS) using SQL programming language. I would analyze these records in order to file warranty claims with Boeing and Airbus. It was in this capacity that I uncovered numerous incidents of unlicensed personnel illegally signing off repair work on United Aircraft at these 3rd party vendor sites. When I turned these records over to the FAA, their inspectors told me that they would ask United to provide the handwritten job cards from the licensed mechanics for the work being improperly signed off in AMIS. They later told me that there were numerous instances in which United could not come up with any written paperwork. Not only does this violate numerous Federal Aviation Regulations FARS, but the fact that there was no ï¿½audit trailï¿½ to a licensed mechanic would indicate that the work had not been done. This practice is known in the industry as "pencil-whipping" which is the signing off of work before completion. Please take note of this incomplete workmanship in The Forbes Article below.
DESCRIPTION OF UAL DOCUMENTATION I GAVE TO FAA
Improper Signoffï¿½s of Deferrals- One example is aircraft 7791, a Boeing 727 flying into Chicago, that was sounding its altitude alert warning 1000 feet early forcing pilots to set the altitude 1000 feet higher. It was unable to be repaired in Chicago and was deferred. The repair was shown as accomplished at BFG AEROSPACE, and signed off on 3/8/99 by an unlicensed secretary.
Improper Signoffs of Flight Controls- Of note is a rudder rig (adjustment) on aircraft 7180, a Boeing 727, shown as accomplished by TIMCO on 12/26/00 and signed off by an unlicensed secretary.
Improper Signoffs of Autopilots- On 4/8/99, aircraft 7793, a 727, had an autopilot that was making the plane move up and down in flight, a condition known as ï¿½Porpoising.ï¿½ Its Pitch Channel was reported as replaced at BFG AEROSPACE and signed off by an unlicensed secretary.
Signoffs of Aircraft Wash and Seals- A secretary was signing off wash and seal accomplishments for aircraft throughout the country from the office in San Francisco. This is also a very critical responsibility as all of the aircraft external openings, including air data sensors, are covered with tape prior to washing. The tape absolutely must be removed afterward. NOTE: Failure to remove this tape led to the crash of an AeroPeru Boeing 757 in October 1996 and the conviction of the mechanic responsible. http://www.awp.faa.gov/new/fsdo/release/long0498.htm
Note: In Unitedï¿½s case a 3rd party contractor was being used known as PEDUS that does not employ licensed mechanics. Many of its employees were convicted felons on work rehab.
I RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING CONFIRMATION LETTER FROM THE FAA:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
JAN 24 2002
Mr. Timothy Hafer
1536 Malcolm Avenue
Los Angeles, California
800 Independence Ave.,
SW Washington, DC
Dear Mr. Hafer:
This letter is to inform you of the preliminary results of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) investigation of the air carrier safety aspects of your complaint against United Airlines, Inc.; under the Whistleblower Protection Program 49 U.S.C. section 42121.The FAA has completed its investigation of the safety allegations contained in your complaint.
This investigation has established that a violation of a FAA order, regulation, or standard relating to air carrier safety may have occurred. Therefore, the FAA is taking appropriate corrective or enforcement action concerning this matter. If additional information is required from you, an FAA investigator or attorney will contact you. Please note that the FAA's disposition of the safety issues outlined in your complaint is independent of the U.S. Department of Labor's separate investigation into your allegations of discrimination.
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
Matthew J. Shack
Air Transportation Division
4/01/2002 "IS YOUR PLANE UNSAFE?" EXCERPT FROM 4/01/02
Gassed up and loaded with passengers, United flight 9921 was preparing to leave Dulles International for Boston on Sept. 4,2001, But for some reason the front passenger door on the Boeing 737 wouldn't close. Called to the tarmac, the mechanic removed the inner door panel and found the answer: The door was falling off. "I saw all these faces looking out the little windows, and I thought, What if this thing had opened in flight?"' he recalls. One of UAL's maintenance subcontractors had forgotten to connect all the bolts when the jet was overhauled the week before, "it was something that slipped through that shouldn't have," says David Latimer, vice president at Triad International Maintenance Corp. Timco employees involved were disciplined, and controls were tightened. Both Timco and United (nyse: UAL - news - people), Latimer says, told the Federal Aviation Administration, charged with regulating airline safety, about the problem YET NO FINES RESULTED. But the FAA did levy fines in other episodes of maintenance and safety oversight. A United 737 flew 17 flights AFTER A TIMCO OVERHAUL from Mar. 25 to Apr. 3, 2001 with parts of its fuel system missing or improperly installed. The FAA fined UAL $200,000 for operating the jet in an "unairworthy condition."
PICTURES OF THIS INCIDENT CAN BE SEEN ON:
11/06/2001 FAA NEWS
THIS UNAIRWORTHY PLANE WAS RELEASED 3/25/01, ONE DAY BEFORE FAA INSPECTORS AUDITED TIMCO USING THE SQL (AMIS) REPORTS THAT I GAVE THEM:
FAA FINES UNITED $200,000
Federal Aviation Administration,
Renton, WA 20591
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 6, 2001
Contact: Allen Kenitzer
FAA Proposes $200,000 Fine Against United Airlines
RENTON, WA, - The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed to assess a $200,000 civil penalty against United Airlines of Chicago, for allegedly violating FAA regulations by operating a 737 aircraft on seventeen flights when it was not in compliance with regulations. On March 25,2001, United Airlines contractor TIMCO approved a United 737 for return to service following the completion of substantial maintenance. The FAA alleges TIMCO failed to properly re-install fuel system components rendering the aircraft unworthy. Further, TIMCO personnel failed to perform the proper post-check inspections and tests to ensure proper re-installation of fuel line system components. FAA alleges that between March 25, 2001 and April 3, 2001, United aircraft N308UAconducted seventeen separate flights in an unairworthy condition. FAA alleged that United Airlines continued to operate the aircraft on 17 flights before they discovered that certain components to the fuel line system were missing and/or improperly installed - a violation of airworthiness regulations. United Airlines will have 30 days from its receipt of the FAA's enforcement letter to respond to the agency. This announcement of the proposed civil penalty is made in accordance with the FAA's policy of releasing information to the public on newly issued enforcement actions in cases involving penalties of $50,000 or more.
FAA LETTER TO UNITED AIRLINES RESULTING FROM SQL AMIS RECORDS AUDIT PERFORMED ON 3/26/01 RELEASED THROUGH FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
March 26, 2001
Mr. D.K. Loo
Director, Quality Assurance
United Airlines, Inc.
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco, CA 94128
Dear Mr. Loo:
On March 26, 2001, The San Francisco Certificate Management Office (SFO-CMO) performed an audit of United Airlines Inc. (UAL) approved contract vendors Mobile Aerospace, Tramco, and Timco. The audit conducted was specific to overhaul maintenance records of UAL aircraft from 1998 to present a sampling of various vendor aircraft records were compared to UAL's electronic Aircraft Maintenance Information System (AMIS) records in which disparities were noted. Specifically, the disparities noted below are contrary to Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS) 43.9 (b), 121.369 (c) (2) (3) and UAL's Maintenance Operating Procedures Manual (MOP) Vol. 1 Bk. 1, 7-0-11-4 (1 ) (A), 2-0-3-1-1 (4) (A). a. UAL's AMIS ITMLBR, AMSITM, and ITMAUD reports are not consistent with the vendor's original job card documents. Reference sequence number 6882012 and Robbed Unit Tag W9292S. Note: The name of the person performing the work is not being inputted into the AMIS system as reflected in the work card documents per PAR43.9 (b) and 121.369 (c) (2) (3).
Exemption #6 b. The following individuals, XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX have been inputting records into AMIS without UAL required training; Reference course number D990V004 titled Maintenance Planning Analysts. Other examples of this nature exist. In order to obtain compliance with the listed PARs and UAL's policies, please include in UAL's MOP manual, procedures for the transcribing of the Mechanic/Inspector name responsible for the work performed in the discrepancy block of ITMLBR, AMSITM and ITMAUD data screens. Additionally, please provide a detailed list of UAL Analyst/Planners authorized to input data for contract vendors and their Training and Qualifications (T&Q) records. Also, provide correspondence showing authorization for use of electronic data storage for aircraft records by UAL.
Please review these findings and provide the requested information to the San Francisco Certificate Management Office (SFO-CMO) by April 9, 2001. Should you have any questions regarding this matter, contact Glenn Orfitelli at (650) 876-9013 ext 130 or Tony T: Campbell, at ext 102.
Fleet Program Manager,
San Francisco Certificate Management Office
THE MOST DEADLY AND CRIMINAL EXAMPLE OF THIS "OUTSOURCING" that I uncovered was "Change Order Authorization 735720"- Directive written by UAL engineering to change ALL Boeing 727 engine generator breakers after TIMCO had overhauled the entire fleet of 24 aircraft. In the summer of 2000 United Bench Shop 151 discovered that the breakers, of which there are 7 on each plane, had not been overhauled but instead had only been cleaned and repainted. These breakers are a critical ï¿½hard-timedï¿½ component that transfers the electrical power from the aircraft engines to the 727ï¿½s electrical buses. The internal parts are known to eventually breakdown and short out if not replaced by scheduled overhaul. This causes an immediate and potentially deadly flash fire along with the loss of electrical power from the affected engine. THE ENTIRE FLEET OF 727'S HAD BEEN OPERATING WITH THESE BOGUS PARTS.
All of my documentation that I gave to FAA is available on request.
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF EVENTS: In December of 2000, a co-worker in my dept. (SFOOX) explained to me that he was being told to sign off maintenance write-ups on aircraft being overhauled by 3rd party vendors. During the last week in January 2001, I began to generate SQL reports of this activity from the AMIS electronic database. I extract 3 separate reports of this from DB2 involving flight control, autopilot, and deferred maintenance write-ups, which do not refer to any written job card or licensed mechanic. On, 02/28/01 I contact the FAA Hotline in Washington D.C. to report my concerns. On 3/05/01 I am paged by FAA Inspector Glenn Orfitelli regarding my hotline incident report. 2 hours later I meet with him and Inspector Tony Campbell at the FAA Certificate Management Office in Burlingame, CA. They tell me that they will request from UAL the written documentation to the signoffs in the reports that I have handed over to them. On 3/28/01 I receive a letter from the FAA in Washington D.C. expressing their appreciation. It states that there were some "inconsistencies" found between the original documents and the electronic records in AMIS. On 3/29/01 I call Tony Campbell regarding this letter. He says that they found numerous instances where UAL could not come up with any written documentation. He said that he had just sent a letter to UAL that they would not like. It states that UAL must start transcribing everything from the written cards into the AMIS electronic record. On 5/15/01 while at home I receive a call from Inspector Tony Campbell telling me that he gave my name to Quality Assurance Rep. Mason Rashid at UAL as a point of contact to explain how SFOOX was able to have unlicensed personnel sign off mechanic maintenance work. He said that the investigation was "gung ho" with a lot of UAL "head honchos" involved. On 5/30/01, I was terminated by UAL for violating confidentiality policy.
If you are concerned about airline safety especially during these troubled times, I am requesting that you look into this matter. I am greatly concerned as to what is or is not happening as a result of my informing the FAA and The Dept. of Labor of these activities. Please note that The FAA assigned their investigation the case number WB0147. I have not received any further word from them regarding fines or other enforcement actions. The only thing that resulted from my whistleblowing to the FAA was that I lost my job.
The time period when these illegal acts were occurring was when it was having contract disputes with its unions resulting in many cancelled and delayed flights 3 years ago. This was the beginning of Unitedï¿½s financial downfall. That is why I feel it is urgent to inform you of this situation now that United has filed for bankruptcy and is even more desperate to reduce its daily cash burn. In fact United is currently planning to outsource as much of its maintenance as it can. The $200,000 dollar fine resulting from FAA Audit of TIMCO was reduced to only $33,0000, FAR LESS THAN WHAT I HAVE PAID IN LOST INCOME FOR REPORTING THESE CRIMINAL ACTS!!! See this link: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/business/article/0,1299,DRMN_4_1697447,00.html
Also two of my fellow mechanics appeared on CBS TV in Indianapolis on February 14th.
Please Note: United Airlines unsafe maintenance practices are now endangering our troops in The Persian Gulf: http://www.dallasnews.com/dmn/news/stories/030303dnnatmaintain.93f92.html
In addition, United has just closed its massive, state of the art Indianapolis Maintenance Base. 1,100 Licensed Mechanics have been furloughed in favor of outsourcing to 3rd party repair stations who have been allowed to have uncertificated personnel work on airliners. http://www.indystar.com/print/articles/4/030418-6964-031.html
Feel free to contact me at any time. For more information visit: www.untied.com
Tim, It goes without saying that I only wish that just one of the many people that worked on the IFEN had done what you were brave enough to do. You may very well have saved lives. I wish there were more courageous people such as yourself. Thanks for the information.
I just ran into a similar situation. So I feel for you. I worked as a flight instructor at a local flight school. During my 6 month tenure I was told to fly airplanes that were in clear FAR violation. I was also instructed to lie about it if caught. I needed to pay my bills and have more than $100K in student loans to pay for my flight training so quitting without having another job was not a good option. As a flight instructor I was making no more than $200 per week - below that of poverty level. But I eventually decided to quit and found another job. I then contacted the local FAA office (FSDO) and told them I'd like to help them by providing them with information on my previous employer. My concern was with the safety of the students and other flight instructors.
Any way, I started to tell what I knew and when I hesitated to self incriminate myself I was threatened by the FAA. They told me that I was going to also be investigated and may now lose my pilot's license. My career is at risk and I have to hire an attorney and take out a loan to cover the $5000 retainer fee.
All because I was trying to do the right thing and report to the FAA safety violations by a local flight operator. I'd never do it again. I'm just 23 years old and my entire life I had dreamed of being a pilot and now I may lose that dream (and wasted >$100K in student loans and 4 years of education training to be a professional pilot) because I spoke to someone at the FAA and tried to do the right thing. Do yourself a favor. Don't try and do their job for them. They will bite the hand that feeds them.
Mahja, I really feel badly for you. I'm not at all surprised that the FAA has put you in this position. If you read this site you will see that we've had trouble with them also. Lyn Romano and I tried to get them to accelerate their AD requiring flammable insulation (mylar) to be replaced only to have them extend the time that airlines had to do so. They also were involved in allowing the approval of the dangerous IFEN (entertainment system) that was installed on the swissair jet. The CTSB said that caused the crash, along with the mylar insulation which caught on fire from this poorly installed, overheating system.
I hope this works out okay for you. I hope you can at least take some pride & comfort in the fact that you've done the right thing.
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