Topic of the Week: Any Safety Concerns?

Safety/Security, Southwest, United

It’s been a safety-issue kind of week, hasn’t it? There’s the letter United sent to its pilots regarding some serious problems. Then there was the news about Southwest missing inspections on over 100 airplanes.

Does any of this concern you? Would you be less likely to fly one of these guys? Or is it a non-issue for you?

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22 comments on “Topic of the Week: Any Safety Concerns?

  1. This really does not concern me…in the least. The last accident in the U.S. was that Colgan crash in Buffalo and that was several years ago. I consider the U.S. airline industry incredibly safe. Think about the number of flights. It’s a phenomenal record.

  2. Don’t like the missed inspections, like the letter. Its great to do that every once in a while — all businesses should have employee well being as a top goal — and airlines maybe the #1 goal. Planes do not fly and fix themselves (yet).

  3. Not that I fly SW if I don’t have to–rarely cheaper, always a stop, annoying seating–but its negligence does bother me. What’s the airline’s excuse? Too busy? SW has had this ignored-inspection issue before. The planes should have been grounded. I don’t buy the “Yeah, so they drop one once in a while, flying is safe” bit either.

  4. I remember reading somewhere that the specific inspections Southwest missed are ones that they do in excess of what the Feds actually require, but of course now that I’m trying to find the article it’s hiding from me. I also remember reading that the issue was self-reported. I have no love for Southwest, and avoid them whenever possible, but it sounds to me like they’re on the ball. UA’s letter is proactive. They’re griping at a slight erosion of safety margins, which is the RIGHT thing to do under the circumstances. Am I concerned? No more than usual. All airlines use human beings for their flight crews — THAT is what’s scary. I’ll save my worrying for the safety issues that are NOT reported.

    1. Southwest has these incidents come up so often and no one makes a stink. For an airline with 1 fleet type, how hard is it to follow safety directives by FAA/Boeing? As for being self-reported, that is how most carriers work with the FAA, it doesn’t mean it is a minor concern, it is just how our government has oversight – self regulation and reporting for the most part.

      Amazingly, it seems like no one ever gets fired for this too. Which given the impact to the operation, let alone safety concners, you’d think a head or two would roll and procedures would change.

  5. Makes you wonder if it was an honest oversight or a deliberate act to just skip the inspection and deal
    with any negative PR later, not sure if they get fined for this and if so maybe the fine is less than the money they would make in keeping the planes flying instead of grounding them for the inspection.

  6. While I still consider flying very safe the fact that there has not been a major incident in the US since 2009 does scare me slightly. People tend to get complacent when things have been running smoothly for so long. The WN inspection and UA pilot letter are both good in the fact that they are so public and is putting safety back on the radar – pardon the pun.

    As a side note I take issue with the Bloomberg article that UA/CO hasn’t had a fatality since 1997. Two of their aircraft were involved in the events of 9/11 and while it was a unique event I certainly count security screening as part of airline safety. Pre 9/11 that was contracted by airlines, no? Surely no other event in our lifetimes has affected airline safety/security more.

  7. These revelations tell me that the safety programs and procedures by these two airlines, and in coordination with the FAA regulations are effective in ensuring the highest level of safety consciousness in commercial aviation in the U.S.

    The above lengthy single sentence encompasses Airline/FAA cooperation in operations monitoring, flight crew and maintenance training, self-reporting and adherence to the FARs and maintenance requirements.

    I could break down specifics to further explain the two previous paragraphs, but I believe that “Cranky” is already aware of most if not all safety elements in commercial aviation that contribute to the safest mode of transportation in the western world.

    Respectfully,

    Ray Uribe (“All Day Ray”)

  8. The letter from United (as posted on PPRUNE) is pretty standard stuff. They had some incidents, a breakdown of CRM was a common factor, management reminds everyone the importance of good CRM and professionalism.

  9. The complacency comment from “A” hit the nail right on the head. When the economy tanked, I thought, well there goes the experienced maintenance guys, more expensive pilots and crews, TSA folks (ie., longer lines), etc…I recall Southwest had a major metal fatigue issue that could easily have been prevented by inspections. It definitely made me book on other airlines immediately afterwards, but eventually the speed and reliability of Southwest brought me back. And they can re-task a plane in minutes where US Air and others simply sit there.

    No legacy carrier in the U.S. really should have to send a letter like this. Maybe it is their smaller regional planes that are more at risk because of younger, less experienced crew. And although the intended tone of the letter seems proactive, it also uses exculpatory language for the company as if to say “hey, we wrote this to our pilots, so we can’t be held responsible later.” That concerns me, but I do know that younger UA/CO pilots may take real note of it.

    In the end, the more of these inspections that are “forgotten, the more maintenance issues that will arise, and the less reliable a carrier is for travel. I had a series of 5+ in a row on US Air that were delayed and/or cancelled due to maintenance issues, ones that could have most likely been resolved by proper maintenance.

    United and SWA still beat out US Air for me.

    1. Brian.. I’m curious how do you know that the US Airways maintenance issues were due to a lack of proper maintenance? How do you know that those same issues wouldn’t have stopped United and Southwest planes in their tracks as well?

      1. Nobody was even trying to repair the plane. There was no estimate on repair time. The plane just sat there for hours. It was as if US Air’s ground maintenance crew all went on break at the same time. That is why I cancelled and jumped on the next SWA flight out. Glad I did because when I landed 2 hours later, the US flight was still grounded with no updated flight time. SWA/WN would not have been backed up because they can re-task a plane, something which I have seen multiple times. WN appears to have quicker response time for maintenance (at least visibly) and more planes as back ups. In other words, WN has the flexibility that US Air does not. United just seems to run smoother because they are partially based in Texas where the weather causes less disruptions than the Northeast.

        1. This is late, but how do you know no one was trying to repair the plane? Perhaps there was someone back in the office working on obtaining the correct part?

          Other carriers can and will do airplane substitutions.

  10. I still walk across the street in downtown Seattle at all hours of the day. I even jaywalk across streets at certain hours. Flying I’m sure is much safer.

    Though I’m curious if Southwest got more of a pass than other airlines would get in this same instance. As I recall AA had an issue with their MD-80s and the exact alignment of some wiring, and this ended up grounding the fleet until it was fixed. AA didn’t get a five day period to fix the issue.

    Some of this feels like WN is getting preferential treatment, but they’re probably used to that.

  11. The United letter in my opinion shows the system is working. The airline I work for also use what is called “FOQA” (flight operations quality assurance). This allows the airline within certain guidelines to download the flight profiles of random flights and chart trends in the way the flights are flown. This allows the training department to target areas that seem to be trending downward before they become a issue. While this became a public issue at United it is certainly used at most if not all airlines and works.

    1. Okay, I have to ask: what was a Laotian IL-62 doing on a transatlantic sector?

      (Also, Laos had IL-62s? Um… good for them?)

    2. Cool:) I’ve flown on both the IL-62 and the IL-86, and both scared the shite out of me – partly because the IL-86 smelt of cattle, partly because there were more passengers than seats, partly because of an unscheduled fuel stop in Tashkent, partly because of the paralytically drunk passenger sat next to me, but mostly because I was a complete wuss back then.

      Great planes!

      I’ve stopped worry so much about what’s gonna happen on board because I have no control over it. I flew on a 777 the same morning that MH370 disappeared, and realised I was more accepting of my fate than I thought I was. I’m assuming the 787-8 I’m on tomorrow has a decent battery now…..

      1. And if that 787-8 doesn’t have a descent battery, at least its got a steel box around the battery.

        1. A joyously reassuring thought, Nick – cheers for that:)

          (hope it isn’t a ‘descent’ battery – surely that’s what they were trying to sort of fix in the first place…..?? I mean, its’ propensity to potentially cause a descent!)

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