The recent grounding of American Airline MD-80 series aircraft has negatively impacted the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people. Some of them were going on vacations that cost thousands of dollars.
In my opinion, several issues in this matter appear questionable. The FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) that is at the center of the inspections appears to be AD 2006-15-15, available here: http://tinyurl.com/6bzjhp [Docket No. 2001-NM-387-AD; Amendment 39-14696; AD 2006-15-15] RIN 2120-AA64, Airworthiness Directives; McDonnell Douglas Model DC-9-81 (MD-81), DC-9-82 (MD-82), DC-9-83 (MD-83), DC-9-87 (MD-87), and MD-88 Airplanes
The effective date was 5 September 2006 and the airlines impacted had eighteen (18) months from the effective date to complete the AD required actions. Supposedly American Airlines performed the inspections (or some of them) in another aircraft grounding in late March 2008.
Related points to consider as this is evaluated are the reported “coziness” between the FAA and Southwest Airlines as it relates to aircraft inspections and the recent Congressional hearings that focused on that relationship.
Given that the airlines were given 18 months to comply with the AD, it apparently was not an urgent safety issue. A real safety issue would probably generate an Emergency AD. In several reports available on the internet, the point is made that “These inspections -- based on FAA audits -- are related to detailed, technical compliance issues and not safety-of-flight issues.” Source: http://tinyurl.com/5fzwce
My opinion is that people who were impacted by this should contact their US Senator and Congressperson and demand that this issue be investigated fully. If there was no pressing safety concern, why did all the aircraft have to be grounded? They should have been inspected during the 18 month period. Why was that not supervised by the FAA and American Airlines and completed well before now?
Why didn’t the FAA provide relief from rigid compliance rules to prevent the massive disruption to the travel/vacation plans of so many people?
Did the FAA use this as a public relations stunt to counter negative publicity from the Southwest Airlines incident.
This needs to receive the in-depth investigation to identify where the system failed to prevent another incident like it.
Additionally, people impacted need proper compensation. Whether that is by American Airlines, the FAA, or both I don’t know. Maybe Congress should make that determination. But in the meantime, travelers should look at the American Airline website for the link that discusses this issue and determine if they want to seek compensation. If they do, I would aim high.