Jackelyn Mota, Jessica Garcia, Kirk Jackson, Gustavo Puente, and Eddie Morales
July 9, 2012
Martin McDuffie, MHRM, PHR-CA
Learning Team Assignment Week Three: Current Ethical Issue in Business Paper
American Airlines, a major United States based air carrier put thousands of passenger and crew lives in danger by failing to maintain the proper Minimum Equipment List (MEL) when servicing two of their model MD-83 aircraft that were malfunctioning. The MEL contains components and systems without which the aircraft may operate safely under specific limitations. The issues at hand are traced back on a few different occasions. The faulty maintenance dates back early in 2001, also in April and August 2008, and February, March, May, and August 2010. American Airlines has dealt with penalties, fines, and criticism over the deferred maintenance of aircrafts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also been criticized over this matter. They have been blamed for not adequately monitoring issues that needed proper attention. Even though maintenance is delayed, it does not mean the aircraft is unsafe, it is unethical to defer aircraft maintenance because aircrafts not regularly maintained can cause accidents that can cause death, and aircrafts can become non-operational resulting in economic loss and heavy fines, there must be a proposal in place to prevent tragedy.
It is unethical to defer aircraft maintenance. American Airlines is a company that participates in maintaining aircrafts for a smaller environmental footprint so it does not make sense for the company to cut corners here. “Nearly $4.5 million of the proposed fines stem from American's continued operation of two MD-83 jetliners in December 2007 after pilots reported problems with the autopilot systems, the FAA said. The two planes were flown a combined 58 times before the problems were corrected -- and one flew 10 times after an FAA inspector notified the airline that it had wrongly deferred needed repairs. In one incident, the autopilot disconnected during a landing on December 21, the FAA said. "American technicians did not check for the actual problem, and instead deferred maintenance using an inappropriate MEL (minimum equipment list) item. The plane flew another 36 passenger-carrying flights during December 21-31" (CNN, 2008) It was said that a shortage in personnel, mechanics improvising on repairs, not having the proper parts, and pressure to have aircrafts ready for flight contributed to the lack of consistent maintenance. People not voicing their concerns in fear of losing their job positions might have also been a factor.
Aircrafts can become non-operational resulting in economic loss and heavy fines. In August 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced civil penalties against American Airlines totaling $7.1 million. The penalties were for deferring maintenance on safety-related equipment and deficiencies with its drug and alcohol testing programs and exit lighting inspections. The FAA believes the fines were appropriate because the company knew that appropriate repairs were needed and instead deferred maintenance. The FAA was implementing duty-based ethical standards by following through with the investigations and fines. In intentionally continuing to fly the aircraft, the carrier did not follow important safety regulations. Those fines could have easily gone up as high as 20 million dollars had American Airlines not changed its negligence. Some of the problems American Airlines recorded with maintenance lapses: mechanics signing off on work without proper authorization, multiple faulty repairs of engine-start systems, repeated failures of forward landing gears on American's MD-80 jets, potentially hazardous cockpit windshields on Boeing 747, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft was recorded in September of 2007 and reportedly there had been