Whistleblower Report: Airline Mechanics Claim Pressure to Overlook Safety Problems

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

ICYMI: Normalization of Deviance Can Often Have Devastating Consequences

According to a new CBS News Investigates report released Monday on CBS This Morning, “Airline mechanics say they feel pressured by management to look the other way when they see potential safety problems on airplanes, an eight-month-long CBS News investigation reveals. In some of the cases, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed with those mechanics.”

The U.S. aviation system is experiencing an unparalleled period of safety, with only one death involving a passenger airline in the last decade. But in our interviews with more than two dozen airline mechanics, they speak of the pressure to turn aircraft around faster that sometimes can be too much, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. They blame it on an economic reality of the airline business: a plane only makes an airline money when it’s flying passengers.

Speaking to 26 airline mechanics, “two-thirds from American and the rest from Southwest Airlines,” the mechanics describe managers’ pressuring them to “focus only on the work assigned.”

“If you’re working, say, on a landing gear, lubing it, and you notice that a flap three feet away is leaking, and you write up the flap leak, you’re beyond your scope,” one mechanic said.

While “both Southwest and American are locked in tense union negotiations with mechanics,” FAA whistleblower complaint findings back up the mechanics’ claims describing “inappropriate pressure and retaliation since 2015 at the two airlines – and at least 32 other anonymous industry-wide reports between 2015-2018.”

Cell phone video captured a tense exchange between an American Airlines mechanic and a manager in 2017.

“We’re an accident waiting to happen,” the mechanic could be heard saying.

The FAA found reason to believe a Miami-based mechanic was retaliated against after reporting problems that pulled several planes out of service.

“You single out one guy because he’s doing his job. What about all of us? What’s going to happen to us when we do our jobs?” the mechanic can be heard saying.

American’s New York based airline mechanic Gary Santos “described it as “a short-cut environment,”” saying that by speaking out on camera he was risking his job.

John Goglia, a former NTSB member, said so many speaking out is unusual. “That’s standing out on the top of the hill screaming at the top of your lungs,” acknowledging, “there’s no question that there’s a problem,” adding that he believes it is an ‘industry-wide’ problem of “pressure to speed up repairs and get planes back in service faster.”

“You have two dozen. I’ve probably had over a hundred over the past three or four years that have called me with those kinds of complaints, and I’m talking about calls from every single airline,” Goglia said.


The full report and statements to CBS from Southwest Airlines, Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) and the FAA can be read in full at CBS News.

Stay tuned.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.