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Northwest faces safety probe

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http://startribune.com/stories/1778/5594733.html

Northwest faces safety probe

Liz Fedor and Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune September 3, 2005 NWA0903


The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation are investigating safety allegations at Northwest Airlines raised by an FAA maintenance inspector who has been reassigned to a desk job.
In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey on Friday, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., sought assurances that a thorough investigation will be conducted because the flying public needs to know that "Northwest Airlines is meeting all necessary standards of reliability and safety" in its maintenance operations.

Dayton's request came as Northwest and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) reached the two-week point in the union's strike. The Eagan-based carrier is using licensed replacement mechanics to keep the airline operating.

Meanwhile, David Barnes, a spokesman for the inspector general in the Transportation Department, said Friday that his office "dispatched audit investigative staff" to Minneapolis after Dayton alerted them Thursday to safety concerns.

"There are some safety issues raised involving FAA's oversight of airline maintenance, so we are conducting a preliminary inquiry," Barnes said.
Linda Goodrich, an official from the union that represents FAA inspectors, said Friday that the union is pleased that the inspector general's office is looking into the situation.

She said Mark Lund, an FAA avionics inspector assigned to Northwest at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, was shifted to desk duty more than a week ago after Northwest allegedly complained to FAA supervisors that Lund had been acting unprofessionally. The reassignment is "until further notice," Goodrich said.

Lund asked to see Northwest's complaint but was not given a written copy and was not told any particulars, she said.

Lund declined to speak to a reporter Friday. He referred questions to Goodrich, national vice president at the Professional Airways Systems Specialists union.

She said the union is frustrated that a verbal complaint from Northwest Airlines about a very meticulous inspector like Lund could result in his reassignment at a time when Northwest should be under heavier-than-normal scrutiny by the FAA.

"He's tough. He's a very tough inspector, meaning he is to the book," Goodrich said of Lund.

She said Lund wrote a safety recommendation to his FAA superiors about his concerns about the situation at Northwest. A copy of the memo was not available on Friday.

Dayton referred to a nine-page inspector's memo in the letter he sent to the FAA.

"I want to know your response to [the memo's] essential finding that a 'situation exists that jeopardizes life or property,' " Dayton wrote.

In a written statement, Northwest said that "safety is of paramount importance to every employee" at the airline. "As is the practice during any work stoppage, NWA is under increased surveillance by the FAA," the carrier said. "Regarding Sen. Dayton's letter to the FAA administrator, the findings outlined in the letter are not available to Northwest, so the airline will not comment on them."

Northwest said its managers "are in constant contact with FAA officials regarding the safety of our operations."

Greg Martin, chief spokesman for the FAA, said there are two issues involved in its investigation. The first is the safety of the airline's operations. "The second is the ability of our inspectors to carry out their important duties both professionally and impartially," Martin said.

He stressed that the inspector general's office would join the FAA in conducting the investigation. "We are conducting the investigation through our Great Lakes and central regional office," Martin said. Those FAA staff members work in the Chicago area, while inspector Lund works in the Twin Cities.

In the past few weeks, Martin said, the FAA has used 50 to 80 inspectors to oversee Northwest's operations.

While Dayton's office did not release the inspector's memo to the Star Tribune, his letter to the FAA specified some allegations that his office has received. Among them is the contention that 470 FAA inspectors' reports on Northwest's maintenance operations, completed Aug. 20 to 31, were not entered into an electronic database. Dayton said he received allegations that many of those reports cited defects, and that, if the reports had been included in the electronic system, they would have triggered a special FAA alert and risk assessment.

Steve MacFarlane, assistant national director of AMFA, said the FAA inspector was "trying to hold Northwest accountable" to its own maintenance standards.

Also, MacFarlane said, the FAA inspector and AMFA members had been asking compliance questions about the handling and inspections of overhauled parts that Northwest was getting from outside vendors.
 

Redmeat

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I am surprised that Steenland didn't have the FBI show up on the FAA's doorstep over this.

Steenland makes Lorenzo look like a pimple faced school boy.
 
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Ex737Driver

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Some of Steenland's croonies received their expert "tootelidge" under Lorenzo.
 
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