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AIR 21 and the AMT - Know Your Rights Under Federal Law
Aug 30, 2023

August 30, 2023

Dear Spirit AMTs:

We would like to congratulate you on the one-year mark of AMFA being your craft union representative. You have elected your Spirit Airlines (NKS) negotiation representatives to negotiate your first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the Union and Company have held seven (7) Section 6 negotiation sessions during this one-year period. On June 20-22 in Dallas, the AMFA Committee handed a full comprehensive package to the Company. Additionally, last week we were expecting a comprehensive counter on August 22-24 in Fort Lauderdale; however, the Company has instead chosen to counter article-by-article. Stay engaged, remain informed, and continue to support the Negotiating Committee as that support increases the Committee’s ability to bargain a CBA your hard work deserves. Please visit the Spirit Airlines page of the AMFA National website for updates.

It has been brought to our attention that several NKS Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) at many of the line maintenance stations have expressed deep concerns related to safety and non-compliance. One of the dirty secrets of the airline industry is that maintenance managers regularly subordinate aviation safety to on-time departure performance. This ugly phenomenon arises from the fact that airlines rate their maintenance managers’ performance not on their technicians’ proficiency in detecting safety items, but on keeping aircraft in revenue service.

The principal barrier against deteriorating maintenance standards is the individual AMT who has the courage and integrity to resist the pressure of management to release unairworthy aircraft back into service on a tightly scheduled overnight RON/Service Check. Fortunately, mechanisms exist to protect you as the AMT who is determined to do the right thing. Do not sign for any work you did not do, even if you are using the team concept for overnight work. If you are working with someone or working as a group, perform maintenance tasks step-by-step with the proper tooling. Be sure each maintenance task item is signed for by the qualified technician who physically did the work. Only sign your name for the work you performed and completed.

The Spirit Airlines station managers have push directives that appear to be inconsistent with the terms of the Federal Aviation Regulations, General Maintenance Manual (GMM), and the Spirit Airlines Team Member Handbook. With few exceptions, an AMT must follow the terms of the GMM and all other applicable maintenance manuals. Federal law provides:

Each person performing maintenance on an aircraft, engine, propeller, or appliance shall use the methods, techniques, and practices prescribed in the current manufacturer’s maintenance manual…

14 CFR § 43.13(a). The FARs also provide that an airline is responsible for the “performance of the maintenance or preventive maintenance … in accordance with its manual and the regulations of this chapter.”  14 CFR § 121.363(a)(2).

Furthermore, page 9 of the Spirit Airlines Team Member Handbook states:

Our Safety Promise:

Safety is Spirit’s most important value because we care about the health and safety of one another and our Guests. Every Team Member and Service Provider is responsible for ensuring the highest level of safety at Spirit and is committed to:

  • Identifying hazards and risks before they become incidents

  • Immediately stopping any operation if it is believed safety is being compromised

  • Sharing information on all safety issues

  • Reporting any condition, action, or process that may affect safety

  • Continuously improving our safety processes, performance, and culture

We pledge that no disciplinary action will be taken against any Team Member for reporting a safety concern, except in cases of reckless choices with regard to regulations or company procedures, or when a criminal act has been committed.

Adherence to proper maintenance practices is not only an obligation, but also a right under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR 21). An AIR 21 makes it unlawful for an air carrier to retaliate against an AMT who reports non-compliance with federal aviation standards or refuses to deviate from maintenance manual procedures. A complaint with the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) must be filed within 90 days of any adverse action taken by the carrier. An actionable “adverse action” could be anything from termination to a warning letter that chills you from persisting in your compliance efforts.

Strict compliance with manual procedures is a must irrespective of your skill level. Management may want planes in the air, but your A&P license and public safety are priority number one. 14 CFR 65.20 (2) “Any fraudulent or intentionally false entry in any logbook, record, or report that is required to be kept, made, or used, to show compliance with any requirement for any certificate or rating under this part;” which requires our compliance to standards. We must realize our grave responsibility as FAA-licensed certified airmen to exercise our judgment on the airworthiness of aircraft and equipment. We, therefore, pledge unyielding adherence to these precepts for the advancement of public safety of aviation and for the dignity of our craft.

This is a reminder of your legal options: please utilize your carrier’s Safety Reporting System (SRS) when you feel there are safety or compliance concerns while performing your job duties. In addition to your carrier’s SRS, the FAA Hotline may be utilized to report concerns about aviation safety in your workplace. Below are additional legal resources:

  1. FAA Hotline Report: https://hotline.faa.gov/
  2. AIR 21: Whistleblower Statute (Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen, LLP): AIR 21 Whistleblower Statute A Kitchen Table Conversation - YouTube
  3. OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/factsheet-whistleblower-aviation-industry.pdf


Bret Oestreich
National President


7853 E. Arapahoe Court, Suite 1100
Centennial, CO 80112

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