American Airlines pilots union sees 'significant spike' in safety-related issues

An American Airlines pilot discovered a hammer in the wheel well during pre-flight exterior inspection

The American Airlines pilot union is warning that there has been a "significant spike" in both safety- and maintenance-related problems within its operation.  

Among the "problematic trends" the union has been tracking are tools left in wheel wells, an increasing number of collisions between aircraft being tugged or towed, and an increasing number of items left in the safe area near jet bridges, the Allied Pilots Association (APA) said in a warning to pilots Saturday.

In one instance, the APA Safety Committee received a phone call regarding a flight that departed Phoenix on March 25 concerning a tool in the wheel well. 

UNITED ASKS PILOTS TO TAKE UNPAID TIME OFF AS BOEING ISSUES PERSIST

During the pre-flight exterior inspection, a pilot discovered a hammer in the left wheel well. Maintenance personnel further inspected the aircraft and also discovered pliers and a screwdriver in the left wheel well.

Hammer found in Wheel well

An American Airlines pilot discovered a hammer in the wheel well during the pre-flight exterior inspection. (APA)

"Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it safe. Be mindful of the hazards while operating on the ramps and taxiways in congested airports staffed with inexperienced controllers and ground personnel," the APA said.

"While United Airlines is currently under public and government scrutiny, it could just as easily be American Airlines," the APA said in a warning to pilots Saturday.  

MEXICO-BOUND UNITED AIRLINES PLANE MAKES EMERGENCY LANDING AT LOS ANGELES AIRPORT 

Last month, United CEO Scott Kirby made a public announcement reassuring flyers that the carrier is looking into the string of incidents that have recently involved its planes, from engine and structural issues to a wheel falling off during takeoff. 

At least eight unrelated incidents have occurred on planes operated by United since the end of February. As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has increased oversight of the carrier to ensure, in part, that it is complying with safety regulations, according to the Air Line Pilots Association.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Miami, Florida, on Dec. 29, 2020.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Miami on Dec. 29, 2020. (Reuters/Marco Bello / Fox News)

APA President Capt. Ed Sicher said they met with senior management earlier this month to discuss the "operational hazards we have identified" and that they now "have management’s full attention." 

Sicher said APA "secured management’s commitment to involve the union earlier in the safety risk assessment (SRA) process, and we are likewise seeking a commitment that APA will have a seat at the table for the entire quality assurance process." 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 10.68 -0.05 -0.47%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 44.72 -0.92 -2.02%

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

American Airlines told FOX Business that its "robust safety program is guided by our industry-leading safety management system" which includes a "multitude of collaborative programs – and regular touchpoints – with the FAA and all our unions, including APA, to further bolster our strong safety record." 

The FAA did not directly weigh in on the union comments. 

The agency told FOX Business that "sharing and analyzing large amounts of data is key to aviation safety" and that the agency requires "all U.S. airlines to have Safety Management Systems (SMS) through which they identify, monitor and address potential hazards early on before they become serious problems." 

When some event occurs, the agency said it works with carriers to "ensure their systems take into account and mitigate the underlying factors."