Delegates attending the Aircraft Engineers International (AEI) 41st Annual Congress 2013 in Melbourne, Australia have been informed that known but unreported aircraft defects remains the biggest single threat to passenger safety. "Airline passengers are unknowingly facing higher levels of risks due to the dangerous practice of not documenting aircraft system defects until reaching an airport where maintenance can be performed. In other words defects are typically reported “only when commercially convenient for the operator to repair, rather than when they actually occur," says AEI President Robert Alway.
According to AEI, pilots are under immense pressure from airline management to avoid technical delays; similar to the pressure management attempts to put on their Licensed Aircraft Engineers. "With constant cost-cutting by the airlines, many pilots feel they are forced to report defects only on homebound flights or flights into airports where engineers are available. As a result, safety is being compromised to an unacceptable level."
During the congress delegates were informed that investigations to date highlighted that over 80% of all aircraft defects were logged at the end of a day’s commercial flying, 10% were logged at an airport where maintenance was available, with the remaining 10% being logged as they occurred.
“It is a perilous situation continued Mr Alway “with regulators conveniently looking the other way with their fingers crossed, hoping that the unthinkable won’t happen”. AEI also re-issued a call for closer co-operation with pilots on this issue before more lives are lost as in the case of Turkish Airlines flight TK 1951.
A further cause of great concern was the reluctance of national airworthiness authorities to take airlines to task over the problem. The situation also highlights loopholes raised by AEI in the current auditing system, which tends to involve inspectors checking procedures, etc. in the hangar offices but rarely involves unannounced inspections where the maintenance actually takes place - outside on the ramp where the errors occur.
AEI however, is 100% committed to ensuring that passengers are protected at all times by insisting that safety standards are maintained at the highest possible levels. Therefore, AEI calls upon all national regulatory authorities to work harder to enforce regulatory compliance by airlines. An additional step offering significant safety benefits would be to introduce unannounced audits of airlines and maintenance repair stations rather than the several weeks advanced notice issued presently. “Wherever we look, we find airlines and maintenance organisations failing to comply with even the most simple and basic regulations, despite clear evidence highlighting the need for regulators to act immediately” added Mr Alway. “After all it is a basic premise of aviation that commercial aircraft must always be maintained to the highest standards to ensure safe operations and protect the public”.
We look forward to working together with regulators to ensure regulatory compliance and guaranteeing passengers always board properly maintained and safe aircraft.
Aircraft Engineers International (AEI) was formed in 1971 and represents the collective interests of over 40,000 Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers in over 30 countries. The AEI mission is to be the global voice of Licensed Aircraft Engineers by providing representation and support in order to promote the highest levels of aviation safety and maintenance standards worldwide.
For further information contact:
AEI Secretary General