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American Airlines Responds To Allegations Of Maintenance Fraud On Its Aircraft

February 23, 2015 - American Airlines Senior Vice President of Technical Operations, David Seymour on Friday sent a letter off to Transport Workers Union Local 591 president, Gary Peterson in response to a letter he wrote to David Seymour, American Airlines Chairman and CEO.

The letter states that American Airlines is "an industry leader" in aviation safety, the lawsuit filed by the union alleging intimidation and safety violations was "meritless", AA Chairman and CEO Doug Parker would not sit down with the union president that this matter should be resolved through David Seymour, American Airlines Senior Vice President of Technical Operations.


Back in January Transport Workers Union, Local 591 filed a lawsuit against American Airlines which the union alleges American Airlines forced its mechanics to commit maintenance fraud on its aircraft. Below are the letters sent off from the union to American Airlines chairman and CEO and the letter sent from American Airlines to the  union.

From:  Gary Peterson, President Transport Workers Union Local 591

To: Doug Parker, American Airlines chairman and CEO

Date: February 17, 2015

Peterson to Parker, Feb. 17: 

Dear Mr. Parker, 

On January 22, 2015, Local 591 filed a lawsuit in response to American Airlines’ use of surveillance, and threats of arrest and termination, to interfere with Local 591’s representation of fellow Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT’s) in the context of an FAA investigation into unsafe aircraft maintenance practices. These threats came on the heels of a point blank refusal of the Senior Vice President of Technical Operations to discuss with Local 591 the unsafe maintenance practices disclosed in the AIR 21 whistleblower action related to ORD operations.



We are attaching both the ORD and DFW Air 21 complaints to the mailed copy of this letter. Based on our interviews of the witnesses and review of supporting documentation, Local 591 considers the allegations of FAR violations and coercion to engage in unsafe practices to have been substantiated. Local 591 is once again asking that you sit down and discuss these matters with us.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, we have made repeated requests that the company disavow its use of surveillance and threats in response to Local 591’s safety-related representation efforts. These requests have met with no response. Because we consider such management intimidation to undermine both our union and the airline’s safe operations, we have instructed our attorneys to proceed with a motion for a preliminary injunction.

While we regret the necessity of resorting to legal actions against our employer, these efforts have already produced positive results that have served to enhance the safety of American Airlines’ operations:

* As a direct result of the AIR 21-prompted FAA investigation, the Company has received an FAA Letter of Investigation (LOI) regarding the failure to properly repair a defective steering mechanism that resulted in an aborted takeoff. A Company investigator from outside ORD has heard directly from the responsible AMT that he felt pressured to return the aircraft to revenue service. We are hopeful that this same investigator will probe the other reports of maintenance fraud and coercion reported in the AIR 21 complaint.

* In a letter dated January 29, 2015, the FAA’s American Certificate Management Office (CMO), responded to plaintiff Local 591’s complaint that AA had violated the FARs by the manner in which it decided to (1) remove Quality Control from the responsibility of the wide body B-Checks and (2) remove inspectors from the wide body B-Checks. The CMO’s letter concluded that: “As a result of our investigation, we have determined a violation of the Code of Federal Regulations may have occurred. This office will continue to investigate this possible violation and will take the necessary corrective action.”

* On January 30, 2015, the Company issued a revised version of the B737 Lightning Strike or State Discharge card number 05-96-03, which deleted language that had been used by ORD management to effectively eliminate AMT initiated lightning strike inspections. The revisions appear to be a direct response to the federal complaint’s allegations that Regional Maintenance Director Evita Rodriguez implemented a policy of pressuring AMTs to refrain from calling for lightning strike inspections, even where they had detected lightning strike damage. In order to undo the harm she has caused, we call upon Ms. Rodriguez to assemble the ORD AMTs, explain to them the revisions to the card, and disavow her prior instructions.

On the date of the lawsuit’s filing, Company spokesmen represented that they had received no communication from the FAA regarding aviation maintenance issues of concern. While it is hard to believe those statements were truthful at the time, if that same statement were to be reiterated today, it would be a flat lie. 

The number of FAA investigators assigned to the ORD and DFW AIR 21 complaints has now increased to six. As additional LOIs are received from the FAA – and we suspect there will be if the agency is doing its job – we ask you to instruct your subordinates to disclose the nature of the safety violations and work with the President and Vice President of Local 591 to remediate the situation.

These recent developments not only confirm the importance of Local 591’s legal efforts, but also confirm the irresponsible nature of media statements to which you and your AMTs may have been exposed. For example, a local Dallas TV station broadcast a statement from a consultant – with little or no aviation maintenance experience – that the federal lawsuit reflected union “thug tactics.” An equally unqualified analyst from Cowen & Company characterized our federal action as a “seemingly frivolous lawsuit” and, unfortunately, AA’s EVP of Corporate Affairs readily agreed.

Unlike the media, Local 591 representatives have spoken to the witnesses, and reviewed the documentation provided to the FAA, and have no doubt that the allegations made by our members will continue to be substantiated by the FAA.

Mr. Parker, we are asking you to sit down with the President and Vice president of Local 591 and review the evidence. We are also asking that you allow Local 591 representatives to perform their work free of coercion.

Compliance with the maintenance manuals and the IAW program is both your legal and moral obligation. Union representatives play a vital role in counter-balancing the profit-driven goal of pushing planes into revenue service. We have asked AMTs who detect improper maintenance practices to notify their Local 591 representative and file an ASAP report. Our goal is not only to protect their jobs and licenses, but to ensure the safe operations of, what is now, the world’s largest airline. Local 591 believes this airline should be the example of what other carriers should emulate when it comes to aircraft maintenance practices and procedures.

We regret that it apparently required a federal lawsuit to produce this first step in the right direction. It’s so much easier to recognize that safety is a joint effort for labor and management, rather than shallow words expressed to move people along. Local 591 has only one goal, providing our passengers and flight crews with safe and reliable aircraft. But if management continues to chose to slap our hand away from doing what is required by the IAW settlement reached by AA, in reducing the overall fine with the FAA, we will continue to fight back by serving our membership’s primary interest, including litigation if and when necessary.


Gary G. Peterson


TO:   Gary Peterson, president Transport Workers Union Local 591

From: David Seymour, American Airlines senior vice president of technical operations

Date: February 20, 2015  

I want to address the issues raised in your recent letter to Doug Parker, and to provide you with specific contacts with whom you can discuss these issues. I’ll start by addressing the issues you’ve raised regarding safety and, again, assure you that we share the same top priority – the safety of our employees and customers.

American Airlines is an industry leader in the development of our robust Safety Management System, which helps us manage risk in a data-driven and proactive way. Our SMS is certified to the highest level (Level IV) by FAA, and bi-annual independent audits also confirm that our program operates to the highest global industry standard. It’s also supported vigorously by our senior management because it helps us run a safe airline.

A couple of the people who I’d invite you to visit with about our safety program, including SMS, are Paul Morell and Callie Choat. As you know, Paul is Vice President – Safety, Security and Environmental Programs. He has responsibility for the development, implementation, maintenance, and oversight of SMS policy, including day-to-day administration of our SMS. Callie is Managing Director – Safety Assurance and Environmental Programs. She is responsible for the policies, processes, and procedures in the SMS Manual. As you know, the Tech Ops area has two Operation Standards Boards which are designed specifically to ensure that safety risks are identified and addressed, and to ensure that senior management is aware of anything that impacts safety.

Safety concerns can also be raised by individual employees through the company’s ASAP program, which are then assessed by an Event Review Committee that includes representatives from the company, the TWU, and the FAA. In short, to the extent that you, Local 591, or any of your members have concerns regarding safety, the company has an avenue to address those concerns. I invite you to schedule time with Paul and Callie, who welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to discuss the SMS.

Many of the other issues raised in your letter should be addressed through the grievance and arbitration process provided in the TWU’s collective bargaining agreement. This process is mandated by the Railway Labor Act, which grants the System Board of Adjustment exclusive authority to resolve contractual and discipline disputes that the TWU and company could not resolve through less formal means.

The company works daily with TWU locals, including Local 591, to resolve grievances before they are arbitrated at the System Board. If no resolution can be reached, the company and TWU meet monthly before a neutral arbitrator for contractual cases, and multiple times per month for discipline and discharge cases. This contractual process fosters a cooperative approach that more often than not leads to resolution of our differences. If we cannot reach a resolution, a neutral arbitrator can assist.

Jim Weel in our labor relations group is available to discuss any questions and concerns you have about the grievance and arbitration process. In the meantime, we’d encourage the TWU to use the contractual grievance and arbitration process, as it is intended, to address your concerns.

I’d like to clear up some things about the procedures associated with an ongoing FAA inquiry. You mention a handful of FAA letters of investigation (LOIs), and seem to assume that LOIs are tantamount to FAA findings of violations. As you know, the airline industry is heavily regulated, and it is routine for the FAA to independently and objectively evaluate concerns such as those that you have raised. The company is in the midst of providing comprehensive responses to the FAA inquiries, but, so far, the FAA has not advised us of any significant violations or findings. We have a transparent relationship with the FAA, which we view as a partner in our mutual goal to run a safe airline. Myles Nichols, managing director for Quality, Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System, and Training, is available to discuss these issues.

You’ve also claimed that members of my management team have compromised safety by threatening mechanics – and that there’s been no response to your requests that the company “disavow” these tactics. We could not disagree more. We do not tolerate or condone any behavior that could cause an employee to feel threatened or that could compromise our commitment to safety. Since you’ve raised concerns about how the maintenance group is managed, however, let’s set up a time for you to discuss those concerns with me and Paul Wroble.

Lastly, you mentioned the litigation that you initiated a few weeks ago.  As we have indicated previously, we view the lawsuit as meritless. I hope you’ll accept the invitation to talk directly with our safety and labor folks, as well as me and Paul. I look forward to your call.



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