Southwest Airlines should have moved quickly to address possible safety concerns tied to CFM engines as soon as the manufacturer, CFM International, recommended last June that airlines do ultrasonic fan blades inspections on CFM engines attached to hundreds of Boeing 737 aircraft Southwest flies.
That, at least, is the opinion of Lee Seham, general counsel for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union that represents more than 2,400 Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) mechanics.
Seham said his long association with the airline maintenance business (30 years and counting) has taught him that when it comes to maintaining airplanes, “the manufacturer’s maintenance manual is the law.”
But that is not the way things typically operate in today’s United States airline industry, Seham said in an interview today.
“Airlines generally don’t like to comply with the law because then they might have to ground all their airplanes,” Seham said.
But Southwest said it had taken action.
A Southwest spokesperson said via email Friday evening that CFM issued two Service Bulletins to inspect specific fan blades following a 2016 engine failure.
“Southwest completed required inspections in 2017 prior to the required completion date called out in the Service Bulletins,” the email said. “In November of 2017, SWA initiated and implemented an enhancement to our maintenance program to proactively perform ultrasonic inspection of all fan blades during each scheduled fan blade lube.”
Southwest said in the wake of the Flight 1380 fatal incident that it will inspect all those CFM engines in just 30 days.
Seham’s concerns go beyond issues related to the current focus on jet engine inspections, though.
He said today that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued several statements regarding concerns about Southwest’s overall safety culture and pressures from management on mechanics to sometimes look the other way. The most recent of the those FAA statements was issued in the fall of 2017, Seham said.
Southwest last year ended its arrangement to outsource a chunk of aircraft maintenance to facilities in San Salvador, where major aircraft overhauls were handled at least as far back as 2009. Seham and AMFA executives were not told why Southwest pulled out of San Salvador.
Information provided to the Chicago Business Journal shows that one maintenance facility at the El Salvador International Airport had 136 certified mechanics and 2,231 mechanics who were not certified. It could not be immediately determined if this facility was used by Southwest before the carrier pulled out of San Salvador last year.
Bret Oestreich, the national executive director of AMFA, said in an email reply when asked to discuss Southwest’s safety culture in the wake of Flight 1380: “Profit motives, intervals between maintenance checks, and on-time departures have overtaken the safety culture, and the industry and airlines have made profits the top priority.”
Seham would agree: “Maintenance now is nothing more than an expense line item for airlines, but it used to be a real point of pride for carriers.”
Source – https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2018/04/20/southwest-airlines-should-have-inspected-engines.html