Cut the Red Wire, But First...

Cut the Red Wire, But First…

Human factors in aviation maintenance is a topic that never gets old for me. Understanding how our human nature can lead to being lax on the job, thinking we have a better way and holding biases impact the work in hangars and on aircraft is paramount to preventing those things from causing errors. And reducing errors is always the goal.

We have covered human factors over the years but felt the time was right to revisit this topic and take a look at some of the things we can do to improve our work. The nature of the task, the workload facing maintenance workers today, the working environment, the design of the work environment, tools used and the role of procedures in accomplishing the complex work of maintaining aircraft is essential to getting it right.

One issue that is intertwined with human factors is failure to follow procedures. A study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that “Procedure not followed re-occurs with depressing regularity in incident and accident reports in aviation.” Other researchers list Failure to Follow Procedures (FFP) as the number one cause of maintenance mishaps. The FAA study published in 2017 is still an excellent source of information about this and is worth a read. Their results showed that the top three areas of concern were the validity and availability of the procedure documentation, the difficulty of the task being performed, and the organizations social rules/norms.

Work culture, starting from the top leadership all the way to the hangar floor is the linchpin of any organization’s safety and commitment to making efforts to improve. Individuals also play a key role in adhering to procedures, improving skills, continuing education, training and rooting out new and better ways to work by following the proper system of making changes.

Having a solid safety management system (SMS) can be a good way to include and address human factors and should be part of regular training within any risk control program. Addressing how human factors impact employees can yield multiple benefits like higher productivity rates, better safety and fewer on job injuries, less rework and, of course, saving money. For more on SMS, please check out Part 7 of Jason Dickstein’s SMS series in this issue starting on page 46. Parts 1-6 of his series can be found on our website.

There are excellent resources at free for the taking. One is a course called “FFP: The Buck Stops With Me” and is a great starting point for training or even conversations in meetings as a way to keep the topic top of mind for employees.

Also at the “Dirty Dozen” is available for download. Most people know about and have read through these. If it’s been a while, I highly recommend reviewing these twelve human factors hot topics like complacency, distractions, stress and poor communication. Some may find the cartoonish way they are depicted off-putting but don’t let those cartoons mislead you. This resource is full of excellent information and suggestions for counteracting these pitfalls. It makes for great safety meeting discussion points — I guarantee if you open up a conversation in a safety meeting with one of these twelve and review the info from the Dirty Dozen flyer with your team, there will be a lively discussion about it.

For more in-depth information, please read our story on human factors and the problem of failure to follow procedures written by Jim McKenna, starting on page 16.

In lock step with human factors is training. In this issue we take a look at the state of maintenance training. Writer Kathryn Creedy takes a look at how the FAA has been congressionally mandated to reform Part 147 training and yet the changes don’t seem to be happening. In spite of this situation, new training technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being implemented around the world.

Companies are demanding better trained mechanics and technicians. They want workers that are well-versed in the current technologies of today, not the wood, dope and fabric of yesteryear. Flexibility to add or adjust curricula is going to be crucial as technology rapidly advances. Our update of the challenges being faced in training the next generation of A&P mechanics and avionics technicians starts on page 30.

We also take a look at parts tracking in this issue starting on page 22. This piece written by James Careless gives insight into new technologies that can help the ever-present challenge of finding the right parts, close by or as close as possible and getting them quickly, in spite of the current supply chain challenges (see the cover story in the summer issue of Aviation Maintenance called Better Faster Stronger — How to Fix the Aerospace Supply Chain).

Ian Harbison also provides a comprehensive look at hangar and hangar door developments. There are some incredibly innovative solutions out there for both hangars and doors. Whether you need a large temporary structure that can be relocated at a future date or a door system that can open and shut quickly, there are options that can satisfy the most unique challenges all while looking architecturally stunning. Check out this story on page 38.

Hope you enjoy this issue and the upcoming holidays — here’s to a fabulous 2022!

Tempus Fugit

Tempus Fugit

Tempus fugit is the Latin phrase meaning time flies. They say the older you are, the faster time appears to go, which may be related to the ratio of years lived to increments of time and how we perceive time. Not trying to get too philosophical here but it does seem to be true. For example, we are making note of two big milestone anniversaries of extraordinary events in the aviation industry and to me they seem like they happened just yesterday. I’ve talked to many colleagues who feel the same way. Perhaps it’s because these events made such a huge impact on our collective psyches in the aviation industry but also likely because of the personal connections and results that reverberated throughout our lives.

A night view of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
A night view of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

First is the 25th anniversary of TWA Flight 800 that crashed on July 17, 1996. First, let me say that this accident happened on my husband’s birthday so, we remember the date exactly and make a note of it every year. We are both lifers in the aviation industry, so we pay attention to these types of events but never more so than this one. Why? Because second, we had recently moved to Montoursville, Penn. You may have a brief memory of the fact that many members of a high school French club were onboard that flight to Paris for an experiential learning trip — and all of those kids were from this small, tightknit town, Montoursville, Penn. Try to imagine the devastation of 16 students and 5 adult chaperones from the French club of your high school perishing all at once. That event clearly hit this small town hard. As if that isn’t enough, the third reason this particular accident stays with me all these years later is that I had flown for a TWA feeder, knew some folks at that airline and one in particular whose fiancé died onboard that aircraft.

All 230 people on board TWA 800 died in the crash making it one of the deadliest in U.S. history. Accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) traveled to the scene, and later, officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other security-related agencies arrived amid speculation that a terrorist attack was the cause of the crash. There are some who still believe that there was a cover up and that the accident was the result of being shot down or a bomb.

But as you will see in Jeff Guzzetti’s piece, “Wired for Safety” on page 38, the TWA 800 accident was the result of the center wing fuel tank of the older 747 exploding, which was likely caused by wire chaffing and arcing outside of the fuel tank. In Guzzetti’s piece, he looks not only at the TWA 800 accident, but at several others that are all related to wiring.

If you have ever had the privilege of taking courses at the NTSB Academy, you may have seen the truly amazing and extensive reconstruction of the TWA 800 accident aircraft in a huge hangar-like facility at the academy. It is something to behold and the epitome of accident reconstruction. Unfortunately, the NTSB announced recently that they will be disassembling the display and that it will no longer be available for viewing.

The reconstruction was housed in a 30,000 square foot hangar along with other training tools at the NTSB’s Training Center, has been used in the NTSB’s accident investigation training courses for nearly 20 years. The NTSB said “advances in investigative techniques such as 3-D scanning and drone imagery, lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques.” Unfortunately, in the time of conspiracy theorists, this decision has reignited the flames of those who believe there was a cover up of a sinister act that caused the accident. Read Guzzetti’s explanation on page 38 to understand more.

Moving on. This September we are also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the events of 9/11. Again, for all of us who have worked in the aviation industry, we felt the impact of that terrorist attack deeply, personally and its effect continues to reverberate in the lives and careers of so many. When I thought about the fact that it happened 20 years ago, I was stunned. It seems like it just happened.

I think of all the things that came out of that time period. The change to the New York skyline. The changes to aviation security. The military actions made poignant by the recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Let me take a moment to express my gratitude to anyone who served there and please know that the sacrifices you made are appreciated and valued — thank you.

I have written before about my college friend, David Charlebois, who was the first officer aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon that day. I remember him every year at this time. He was living the dream we talked about at college — flying around the globe as a pilot and building experience to become a captain someday. He was well on his way. He was so motivated and one of the first of our cohort to have made it to the right seat of the 757. He gave us all hope that we too might make it, someday.

I feel the need to finish on a high note so let me try. I entitled this piece tempus fugit but let’s don’t forget another oft-quoted Latin phrase: carpe diem. Seize the day. If I had one piece of advice for all, especially now in the throes of the pandemic, it is to seize the day. Tomorrow is not promised. Take the leap. Do the thing you have been putting off. Get the degree. Forgive the one you’ve been holding a grudge towards and move on. Protect yourself, get vaccinated and then, carpe diem. The next thing you know, 20 years — or 25 — will have passed.

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

In early 2007 (doesn’t that seem like forever ago?), I recall attending a conference where a leader in the business jet MRO sector was raving about the boom times. In that time period, the business aviation market was truly booming with multiple multi-aircraft orders at all the shows and backlogs at the business jet OEMs that made it seem impossible to get a slot for an aircraft order in anything close to a timely manner.

This gentleman had been in the business for at least 30 years — likely more. He was considered an expert — a trusted leader and was well-liked and respected. He was sitting on a panel at the conference where he was asked about the potential for the next few years and whether he saw a slowdown coming or more good times. The question was phrased, “When do you predict the boom will end?” The hubris of his answer has stayed with me all these years. He replied, “I don’t see it ending. Ever.” He wasn’t alone. The entire panel — all big name leaders in the business — agreed.

I’m not here to dis that guy or the panel, but even then, I remember thinking, doesn’t he remember the economic recession of the early 80s? Or the hard times of the early 1990s? Or what about the rough patch right after 9-11 exacerbated by the dot com bubble bursting? Those quickly popped to mind and made me recall layoffs and furloughs and green tails stacked up on the ramp – oh my!

Shortly thereafter, towards the end of 2007, the real estate bubble burst. Then, the car manufacturers started suffering hard times and several of them flew into Washington, D. C. in their company business jets to ask Congress for financial assistance in keeping their factories afloat. This act of using business jets to beg for money was seized upon as the ultimate disconnect between those executives and the reality of the impact of the economic downturn on the average person during the Great Recession. Consequently, many business jet operators were shamed into selling or underutilizing their jets and cancelling jet orders.

Just a few months later, by early 2008, that overly optimistic guy I mentioned above, who didn’t see an end to the boom times, was offered early retirement from his very high visibility position at a leading business jet manufacturer and we haven’t heard from him since. Such an incredible domino effect of events, in hindsight.

A year and a half ago, who could have predicted what was to come in 2020 and beyond? Truly no one, which is one of the reasons industry forecasts and overly optimistic experts bother me. I can see why they are necessary but, aside from putting in a statement to the effect, “Pending any ‘black swan” events…” no one could have foreseen a pandemic that would nearly cripple the industry negating any forecast published in the 2018-2019 time frame.

In case you don’t know, a black swan event is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, severe impact and some would even say they were obvious in hindsight. Truly, this pandemic is a black swan.

On the spectrum of optimism and pessimism, I like to think of myself as right in the middle, a realist. I’ve been around long enough to see the cyclical nature of the aviation industry. The ups and downs make it like a thrill ride and whenever I see the boom days I think back to those downturns and wonder how businesses are preparing for that inevitability.

In any case, I am now asking the question, “Are we out of the woods, yet?” with regards to the pandemic and my realism is telling me not quite yet. What do you think?

To that end, in this issue we have some great stories that take a look at various segments of our industry and what is happening now. For example, large engine operators were impacted more severely than operators of small engines so we wanted to see how MROs responded to that situation. See the story on widebody engine MRO starting on page 14.

Next, we are surely seeing some light at the end of this very long tunnel of the pandemic. Many aircraft were sent to storage in the Arizona desert (and other places around the globe) to ride out the slowdown in airline operations. Now that COVID cases are decreasing, vaccinations are preventing the spread and pent up demand for travel is reaching new heights, we are seeing those aircraft being returned to service, especially for the busy summer travel season. What does it take to pull a mothballed aircraft out of the desert and put it back in the operational rotation? Great info on this process in our story about returning aircraft to service starts on page 28.

We also wanted to check out the latest in connectivity options for business jets. With Zoom calls de rigueur and the desire for rapid internet across the board, what offerings exist to help? We checked in with leaders in connectivity solutions for business jets, to see. That story starts on page 36.

Finally, in our ongoing series, On Guard, written by safety expert Jeff Guzzetti, he takes a look at some lessons learned prior to COVID for Post-COVID Returns to Service. The piece examines a B767 fuel leak and fire and how the lessons learned from that event can help now. Read it on page 42.

I’m excited about the light I’m seeing in the tunnel and I’m ready to get back in the air. But the realist in me thinks — as the old joke goes — hopefully it’s not another train.

A Very Important Attribute

FAA Administrator Steve Dixon announced on November 18, 2020, as we were going to press, that he was rescinding the order that grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft 616 days after it was taken from the skies. What a long, strange trip it has been.

Before saying anything else, let us take a moment and acknowledge the 346 lives that were lost aboard both Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We wish those families peace. Boeing also reflected on those losses. “We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” said David Calhoun, Boeing CEO. “These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.” Please see Jeff Guzzetti’s article about the Lion Air accident and related maintenance concerns in our last issue, Autumn 2020, starting on page 36.

The Airworthiness Directive published by FAA specifies design changes that must be made before the aircraft returns to service including installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the airplanes are ready for service.

FAA also issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) and published the MAX training requirements. Accomplishing all of these things will slow the MAX from returning immediately to the skies. The pilot training program revisions must be incorporated by each airline operating the MAX. Airlines must also take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again.

In a press conference on November 18, 2020, Administrator Dixon said the MAX journey had been a “painful and arduous process” that ultimately strengthened the cooperation between other regulators. “We serve as the certifying authority; they serve as the validating authority. In this particular case, one of the things I’m really proud of is the transparency that we’ve had with them throughout this process,” Dixon said. “We worked side by side with the foreign authorities. This is the most heavily scrutinized transport aircraft in history,” Dixon said.

When asked if anyone was held accountable for the MAX situation Dixon replied, “I think we all hold ourselves accountable every day and I never want to take the easy way out. It’s easy to point the finger, blame individuals for things. I’m interested in improving processes and continuing to raise the bar on safety. If I see a need to make a change in certain areas, I will do that…We are doing that. We stood up an ODA office. We have measures in place to make sure it does not happen again and to make sure that we’ve got a solid human factors and an operational perspective throughout the entire certification process.”

Dixon was asked if he felt what happened with the MAX would result in longer certification times for future aircraft. He said one of the things they needed to do was exercise oversight from a “systematic perspective.” He said putting in place safety management systems (SMS) would help them do that. He stressed the need for manufacturers to push data and information to FAA on a more regular basis, rather than on a transactional basis. “I don’t know that it necessarily increases the amount of time, but I think it does improve the systematic rigor of the process. And that’s what we’re shooting for in terms of improving and moving to really the next level of safety with aircraft certification. I wouldn’t say longer, but I would say better,” Dixon stressed.

He repeated numerous times the FAA’s desire to improve the certification process, make it more systematic and to be more data driven. However, he also added, “The design of the aircraft was not the only causal factor. We had maintenance issues. We had also had issues with how the airplane was operated. So we’ve got to take a look at all of those and how they all interact.” Administrator Dickson personally took the recommended pilot training and piloted the Boeing 737 MAX, so he could experience the handling of the aircraft firsthand. He was already a type-certified 737 captain for Delta Air Lines for many years.

Rescinding the previous order to ground the MAX will allow airlines that are under the FAA’s jurisdiction, including those in the U.S., to take the steps necessary to resume service and for Boeing to begin making deliveries.

Boeing says they have worked closely with airlines, providing them with detailed recommendations regarding long-term storage. The beleaguered company also says in a statement that it has focused on improving their company by taking concrete steps to ensure a similar problem does not occur again. These steps include an organizational alignment, bringing 50,000 engineers together in a single organization that includes a new “Product & Services Safety” unit and unifying safety responsibilities across the company. Boeing also says a shift in cultural focus has taken place where engineers have been further empowered to improve safety and quality. The company says they are identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.

Although the company, the FAA and other regulators seem to be on board with this important move towards getting the MAX airborne again, Dixon admitted that some may still feel trepidation, even though it is the most heavily scrutinized transport aircraft history. He said he would put his own family on it. Still, he admitted that being skeptical was understandable. “Skepticism in aviation is a very important attribute,” Dixon said.

Where We Are Right Now

We can’t just not talk about it. The elephant in the room as they say. The thing that impacts every move you make but no one talks about because it is too painful. That is where we are right now. No matter what your beliefs or stand on masks and public health, we are in the middle of a health crisis that is impacting aviation to the highest degree since its inception as a market sector.

So what is happening? As of this writing, there had been 31 million cases of COVID-19 in the world. The epicenter of the outbreak is the United States where there are a reported 6.8 million cases and 200,000 deaths resulting from COVID-19. India and Brazil are both not far behind. There are still travel restrictions in place between numerous countries and confidence in flying remains low, in spite of a recent uptick in travel.

We have had some government assistance to get airlines through the roughest part of the travel stoppage. Some airlines are ready for another influx of money from the government to get them over the hump — the initial round is over as of October 1. Delta might be the outlier among airlines saying that they will not take the next round of Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, instead preferring to utilize their own SkyMiles credit card funds to keep from needing the CARES money. Delta says the new credit facility will “provide gross proceeds of $9.0 billion” to assist them through this prolonged downturn.

All of the airlines are trying numerous strategies to ameliorate the situation such as new cleaning processes, keeping middle seats empty and adjusting workforce by offering leaves of absence and early retirement packages, making historic capacity cuts, parking or retiring older aircraft (and, in some cases, entire fleet types), utilizing passenger planes on cargo-only missions, either belly-only or belly and main cabin says Airlines for America. And Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian says they are “leveraging our MRO business and partnerships with Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce to secure TechOps employment.”

All the airlines are utilizing new cabin cleaning methods to ensure aircraft in their fleet remain sanitary and COVID-free. For example, United Airlines added Zoono Microbe Shield, an EPA registered antimicrobial coating that forms a long-lasting bond with surfaces and inhibits the growth of microbes, to the airline’s already rigorous safety and cleaning procedures.

But the simple fact remains that capacity is too great for demand right now and for the near future. “Global airline flights slid last week which appears to be based on airlines dialing back schedules post-summer as a result of limited demand for travel. I believe we’ll see airline flights hover in this range for a while as demand grows,” says Daniel Baker, CEO, FlightAware.

Airlines for America says for U.S. airlines, passenger volumes remain 65 percent below last year at this time and that the average number of passengers per flight for the week ending September 13 was 69.

For its part, IATA is relaying a message of hopeful realism and calling for the systematic testing of all international travelers before departure. “This should enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine. And it will provide passengers with the certainty that they can travel without having to worry about a last-minute change in government rules that could spoil their plans,” IATA CEO, Alexandre De Juniac, stressed at the IATA media briefing on September 22, 2020. China’s air travel is rebounding faster since they have seemingly gotten the virus under control. European air travel experienced an uptick in June when some borders were reopened, but generally, load factors remain at record lows there, too.

Richard Brown, managing director of consultancy firm Naveo says 38 percent of the air transport fleet is parked or in storage as of mid-September. “While international travel outside of Europe is severely limited, something of the summer holiday season appears to have been salvaged though it feels like a case of two steps forward, one-step- back as cases rise again, localized lockdowns are enforced, and travel restrictions are imposed [again],” Brown says in his latest report: “Air Transport Fleet & MRO Trends.” Brown adds for MRO specifically, “Pre-COVID 2020 MRO spend was expected to be approximately $91B. Instead, due to COVID-19 2020 MRO spend is forecasted to be around 45 percent lower at approximately $50B.” Learn from more from Brown at

All of this to say, aviation has a long way to go before things are going to be OK. As we have mentioned before, the impact of this black swan event is far worse than the terrorist attacks in the U. S. on 9/11 or the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Still, I am hopeful.

In any case, please enjoy this issue of Aviation Maintenance.Our cover story is focused on how engine OEMs and MROs are helping their clients get through this challenging time. We spoke with all the major engine OEMs, as well as several MROs who do engine work, to see how they are responding and helping.

Non-destructive testing and inspections are always fascinating topics — testing or inspecting an aircraft part without doing any harm to it and returning it to service is science and art. We spoke to FAA and test equipment manufacturer TESTIA to learn more.

We also have another installment of our series “On Guard,” written by former NTSB and FAA accident expert, Jeff Guzzetti. He takes a deeper dive into the Lion Air 737 MAX accident. Of course we all know now about the MCAS problem, but there is always more to the story. Guzzetti shows where the maintenance team was lacking.

Glimmers of Hope/Purveyors of Doom by JOY FINNEGAN

United Airlines announced it is adding 25,000 flights back into their schedule in August. JetBlue and American Airlines announced a strategic partnership that they say “will create seamless connectivity for travelers in the Northeast” and more choice. They also hope the relationship will accelerate each airline’s recovery as the travel industry adapts to the new normal of life and travel during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, industry insiders say American sent out WARN notices to more than 24,000 employees including 3200 in maintenance and maintenance-related positions. A WARN notice is a requirement of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988, a U. S. labor law which protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees, as defined in the Act. Other airlines had already sent the notice.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian called the effects of the coronavirus on their airline “staggering” and then announced that the airline will shave its workforce by 20 percent through buyouts and early retirements. That effort will reduce their workforce by 17,000. Most of the airlines are offering these early buyouts. Even so, Bastian said that will not be enough. Delta had a $5.7 billion loss from April to June. He also said it was “the worst quarter…in this company’s history.” Compare that to Delta’s second-quarter operating revenue last year: $12.5 billion.

Still and all, we want to travel. Anecdotally, many have told me how eager they are to get back in the skies to begin exploring new destinations. I’m sure you have heard the same thing. Vacations, family visits and work are on hold but that just creates pent up demand. “Americans want to travel,” says Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of Public Affairs and Policy. “They miss the experiences and connections that travel creates. But travelers also want to see rigorous and conspicuous health measures in place, which is yet another reason why the wearing of masks needs to be widely embraced: restoring confidence in the ability to travel is part and parcel of an economic recovery.”

As we went to press British Airways announced they would retire their entire B747 fleet. It was in the works and would have been done by 2024 anyway, but the travel numbers forced their hand.

The business jet travel market is fairing somewhat better. However, it’s not completely rosy in that arena either. An Argus white paper says the worst month for flight activity prior to the pandemic was “February 2009 which was the bottom month for the Great Recession.” The white paper goes on to say, “Unfortunately, March, April, and May 2020 have all seen worse traffic numbers than February 2009.” The good news is that bizjet operations have ticked up in May and June. And the report says if the August forecast holds, “We will see approximately 225,000 business aviation flights in North America for the month. That is off from the 2019 monthly average of 260,000 but it would represent a 300 percent increase from our April low of 74,771 flights.”

It is truly hard to know how this will go. I see glimmers of hope. But I also see the COVID-19 numbers and the surges in some states. I see folks refusing to wear masks, even though other countries have clearly shown the correlation between capping the spread of the disease and wearing masks. We are stubborn, prideful people in the U. S. – rebels if you will – and it is hard to contain a disease if stubborn people aren’t willing to submit a little to this effort. Mixed messages from Washington aren’t helping. In any case, here’s hoping you stay well and that we are all back in the air soon.

Moving on…please enjoy this issue of Aviation Maintenance. We have looked around the globe to see how things are going in numerous areas of our industry. First, we have our Euro MRO update. We spoke with major MRO providers in Europe to learn how they are surviving in the midst of the pandemic. See that story on page 16.

Next we dared to ask about the shortage of qualified technicians that has been at the forefront of the industry for a couple of years now. We thought surely everyone would say this is not a concern with the pandemic’s impact. However, we were surprised at the responses. Even with potential layoffs and furloughs, many believe there is still need for concern. Read what industry leaders think is going to happen starting on page 24.

The modification of business jets is big business. Having worked for two bizjet manufacturers, I have seen it firsthand. We used to say there was nothing we couldn’t do to a bizjet with the right amount of money and time. We wanted to see what interesting mods shops have been installing recently. Find out on page 32.

Aviation Maintenance in the Time of Coronavirus by JOY FINNEGAN

In our annual State of the Industry feature, we ask top leaders in our industry to give us their take on where we are and where we are going as an industry. These leaders freely share their knowledge and wisdom with us so we can benefit from their expertise, experience and deep understanding of the market in which we work.

Asking for input this year was daunting. It’s easy to share insights when the economy is booming, hangars and shops are full and backlogs are in the months or in some cases even years category. But now, more than ever, we need a reality check. Where are we as an industry? How bad is it? How bad will it be? Will the recovery be quick or take longer than expected? What should companies be doing right now to shore up their resources and protect their businesses?

Asking the biggest and best companies as well as crucial smaller players these questions at a time like this yielded amazing information. We are so grateful for all who took the time to share their thoughts and advice on this most unusual of circumstances that we find ourselves in. The coronavirus pandemic has flummoxed the industry. But these humble leaders found amazing thoughts to share and even encourage us with. Please read through our State of the Industry feature starting on page 16.

Let me share some highlights that leapt out to me. The first thing to jump out to me was from MTU’s SVP Martin Friis-Petersen. After a massive slowing down of their operations for several weeks, the company is now beginning to ramp up again and using a philosophy they have hashtagged, #SmartNewNormal. The company says they will adjust shop capacity as needed, remaining flexible. Friis-Petersen commended the people of MTU Maintenance for their solidarity in the face of the current challenges.

StandardAero CEO Russell Ford says one bright spot in their portfolio is their diversity of clientele. For example, he says their military work remains consistent, both with U. S. government clients as well as international military clients. As for the commercial sector, Ford says StandardAero is monitoring and managing the situation daily and “have contingency plans for quickly aligning operating costs with volume declines on an engine program-by-program and site-by-site basis.”

Ever the realist, Lufthansa Technik’s CEO, Dr. Johannes Bussmann, says the fact that many airlines have reduced flights by 90 percent will bring some airlines to the brink of survival and that the consequences to the MRO industry will be massive. He says they are doing everything possible to ensure the economic stability of their company while supporting their customers. In spite of the situation he concluded with a positive statement saying that he believes the aviation industry will “regain its former strength,” and eventually grow again.

Derek Zimmerman, president of Gulfstream Customer Support says their facilities remain open and that they adopted new health and safety protocols. Zimmerman says some customers have used this time to do planned and scheduled maintenance. He adds as the travel restrictions are lifted, they believe more companies and individuals will see the benefits of business aircraft travel utilizing business jets.

STS Aerospace PJ Anson says first and foremost the safety of their employees is the number one concern of the company. Anson says managing their customer demand to their costs and cash burn is the biggest focus for the long term.

But he also believes companies that make decisions now to become leaner and meaner will ultimately allow a business to survive and even be more profitable.

One area of concern Andy Hakes, CEO of AireXpert, points to is the expiration of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which is providing economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses with the hopes of preserving jobs for American industries. Another area Hakes is focusing on is the continued viability of airline vendor networks and he says some smaller vendors may be facing crisis soon. He also says he is hearing the all too familiar refrain that companies will need to do more with less resources – but at an even more critical level.

The National Air Transportation Association is also bullish on business aviation once travel resumes, predicting a boom even. SVP Ryan Waguespack says businesses will be aiming to keep their people safe and will be using business jets as one way they do that. As for the commercial airline sector, Waguespack predicts a W shaped flight activity recovery period.

Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert believes the work you do is key for people, communities, business, trade and “for the security and interconnectedness of our world.” He says BGS is helping reconfigure passenger airplanes into freighters and working toward digital innovations that will help as operators lean out.

Management consulting firm Oliver Wyman released updates to their annual MRO Forecast just as we went to press. Dave Marcontell, partner, says air carriers “are facing extreme financial pressures and are cutting capacity at unparalleled rates,” and they have revised their forecast for the MRO industry dramatically. One key piece of advice they give is that airlines and MROs need to figure out how to keep the key talent they have, so when the industry does turn around, they will have the experienced personnel needed. Turn to page 26 to read what the experts at Oliver Wyman are anticipating now and see more from their revised forecast.

Cavitation by JOY FINNEGAN

Airlines are like pumps. Money pumps. I have used this analogy to explain how airlines can go from billions in profits to the brink of disaster in seemingly no time at all. I cannot take credit for it but I don’t remember where or who to attribute it to. But it is so relevant right now.

I’m flashing back to 9/11 – I remember it so well. I was flying for a start-up airline based in Dallas, Texas. That airline went out of business and many others struggled to keep going; my college friend was killed – he was the first officer on the aircraft that flew into the Pentagon; I switched careers from being a pilot to being a part of this magazine because I could not find work flying. I have thought a lot about that time and how it feels so strikingly similar. You probably have similar tales of woe from that time period. Maybe you have had a flashback or two as well.

However, this is different and potentially even worse.

Let me go back to the pump analogy. What is a pump? You all know better than most people since you are called upon to occasionally fix them. A pump is a mechanical device using suction or pressure to raise or move liquids, compress gases, or force air into inflatable objects such as tires, one definition states. But the analogy to airlines being money pumps works. Think back to your training days and envision that pump. Money is sucked into the airline on one side. Lots of it. And on the other side, lots of money goes out. The airline itself is the pump in the middle pulling the money in from fares and fees for upwards of a billion passengers in a year.

But to do that work, the airlines must expend a lot of money. These expenditures include aircraft leases and payments; salaries of all employees that include the pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, gate agents, rampers, executives and all others; fuel; maintenance; fees and on and on.

When things are going well, there is a little siphon you can open up and allow the profits to flow out. But what happens when a pump doesn’t get the influx needed to run? With nothing coming in and everything going out, the chamber becomes empty. Then it cavitates. Cavitation occurs when the liquid in a pump turns to a vapor causing excessive vibration, which can cause rotating parts, such as the impeller, to contact non-rotating parts, such as the wear plates or wear rings, resulting in damage.

This is what is happening now to the airlines. It happened during the time right after 9/11 as well. But it is even worse now, because the airlines were only grounded for a few days after 9/11. Even though passenger traffic took a hit then and fewer people were flying, once the airways were reopened, people did continue to fly.

Right now, most airlines have drastically reduced their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions put in place by governments to slow the progression of the disease. This has been going on for days and will likely continue on for many more, until the pandemic has slowed down enough for our healthcare system to safely be able to handle those that become ill from COVID-19. We are trying to prevent what happened in Italy and other countries, which is overwhelming the hospitals and healthcare systems in the U. S. It is a worthy and noble goal. No one in their right mind would want to continue to fly around potentially spreading the coronavirus rampantly with total disregard for the health of our nation, family and friends. It is one hell of a dilemma.

Many businesses, not just aviation are being severely impacted as well, such as restaurants, hotels and many others. Our privately held, relatively small media company has been impacted. We were scheduled to hold our annual event, Aerospace Tech Week in Toulouse, France in March. We were on track for a record breaking event in terms of both exhibitors and attendees. We held our breath and watched as France announced their first cases followed by restrictions of gatherings of 1000, then fewer and fewer until it became clear. We would have to cancel.

I tell you that not to evoke sympathy. But to tell you, as I am sure you have heard already, we are truly in this together. We want to acknowledge that depending on the length of time this goes on, aviation, MRO and all ancillary businesses will take a hard hit.

Please let me know if our publication can be of assistance in any way. We, as always, want to be a partner to aviation maintenance businesses, to help you tell our readers about what you are doing, how you are doing and how you can serve them.

We will continue to let the industry know what you are doing or if you have services/products to market. The aviation maintenance, MRO, testing, service and support businesses that you run, work for and work with are our family and we will do everything we can to help you survive this time so that, once it is over, we can begin the process of rebuilding, strengthening and returning to the healthy, profitable businesses we all are.

Safety is our Number One Priority

Safety is our number one priority. How many companies make this claim? How many include this philosophy in their mission statement? How many times have you heard this statement during your aviation career?

Almost every single company in the aviation industry includes this statement in their company mission state;ment. But have we lost sight of what that statement really means? Are we just reciting it from rote memory with no real understanding of what the ramifications of that statement are?

I feel compelled to keep writing about the Boeing situation. The January 10, 2020 release of internal emails between Boeing engineers, managers and flight test pilots show they were flippant about serious safety issues that continued to crop up with the 737 Max.

As I read through those released emails, I found a familiar ease with the back and forth between these various professionals. Clearly, they wanted to be effective and efficient. But problems cropped up and continued to rear their ugly heads. In those telltale emails, one thing becomes clear. The only encouragement given was towards speed; finishing and finding ways around problems – not fixing them. A few examples of phrases, which you may have already seen nor heard in the news include “jedi mind-tricking” the authorities; “a game we have to play with the regulators.” “I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX.”

It appears one potential customer pushed back numerous times on the Boeing assertion that no additional pilot training would be necessary to which Boeing emails firmly respond, “There is absolutely no reason to require your pilots to require a MAX simulator to begin flying the MAX…what is to be gained by a 3 hour simulator session…?”

Read through these snippets from hundreds of emails and ask yourself if you would put your family on this now infamous aircraft. “I’ll downplay that this is mandatory.” “Is it too early to start drinking?” “I have a flight test guy questioning us about T1 vs. T2/T3 etc., trying to blow up our whole plan.” “I don’t feel like wasting time and energy on an email if I don’t have to.” “OMG this process is so messed up.” “We Boeing elected to forego the T-1 because we thought it was a little too risky to send guys into the MAX with no training.” “Keep our fingers crossed no one notices it and if they do, worst case we say there will be a fix for it coming.”

After referring to their own flight test pilots as “bubbas” and asking if the pitch issue that needed correcting was noticeable, “They’ve said in our meetings it’s definitely noticeable…maybe only to test pilots it’s noticeable?” “You can’t lie if you don’t have to talk.” “I think with all the inexperience present, we should be able to gang up on them and steer it the direction we want.” “I crashed big time my first few times, that is what scares me about showing any of this to them. You can get decent at it after 3-4 tries, but the first few are ugly.” “It’s easy to start chasing pitch and power and get in a PIO [pilot induced oscillation].” “It was like dogs watching TV for the AEG [aircraft evaluations group at FAA] curves, slopes, graphs non-engineers and test pilots really can’t understand.” “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

After months, the emails indicate that team members were mired in the deception: “I have used the words ‘misleading’ and ‘mischaracterization’ a lot over the last two years in relation to his program.” “I would really struggle to defend the sim in front of the FAA next week.” “They are desperate for a go.” An entire back and forth about being forgiven by god and going to hell. “What of the irreparable damage to the Boeing name if it fails.” Q; “What is their concern?” A: “Pitch oscillation during flap retraction.”

One employee clearly felt strongly enough to not lie but considered quitting: “Not sure I will be returning in April given this – am not lying to the FAA. Will leave that to people who have no integrity.”

It does seem as though employees were trying hard to make headway in addressing the problems: “We need lots of operationally simulated testing using the FMC the way the pilots do, not engineers and engineering pilots flying between BFI and Moses [Lake].”

But later the extreme pressure to continue down the quickest path was clear: “Failure to obtain Level B training for RCAS is a planet-killer for the MAX.” There is also a long discussion about how bad the pitch problems were and how Boeing’s “other pilots would probably sign off on it.”

Also on how the company was manipulating the situation: “It is masking figures to manipulate perception.” “Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.” And again, an occasional voice of clarity: “Our arrogance is our demise.” “The FAA were neither thorough nor demanding and failed to write up many issues.”

This email came a mere four months prior to the Lion Air accident in October 2018: “Everyone has it in their head meeting schedule is the most important because that’s what Leadership pressures and messages. All the messages are about meeting schedule, not delivering quality.” And, of course, the snippet that got the most air play, “This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

Have you ever repeated a word over and over again only to find after saying 50 times it doesn’t have a meaning anymore? There is a term for that – semantic satiation. You continue to see the letters of the word or hear the sound of the word, but they no longer make the word; it becomes gobbledygook. The meaning has vanished. I can only imagine that these otherwise successful and committed professionals had become victims of semantic satiation with regards to the word “safety.” But that is still no excuse.

Could that happen in your company with regards to the word safety? Why would an aviation company lose sight of that? The almighty dollar. All meaning and clarity in hindsight.

Where Shall We Begin

There is so much going on the MRO, aviation in general, the world and in this issue of our publication, that I hardly know where to start. So I will dive right in.

As we went to press, Southwest Airlines was in the process of speeding up inspections of close to 40 (and possibly as many as 88) aircraft in its fleet. These were aircraft that were purchased over the years since 2013 from foreign operators and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) became concerned that the aircraft may not meet safety standards. The aircraft were previously owned by as many as 16 foreign carriers.

The biggest issue concerned maintenance records for those aircraft. Southwest hired contractors to review maintenance records. The airline also used “authority delegated to it by the FAA to grant certificates that let it carry passengers on the planes,” according to a report by the Associated Press. This concern has been ongoing since 2018 when an inspector found the issues in Southwest’s records for those aircraft. After a thorough review, Southwest discovered 360 major repairs not mentioned by the contractors.

Clayton Foushee, director of the FAA Audit and Evaluation Office said the Southwest inspections showed 30 repairs that were unknown and 42 major repairs that did “not to meet FAA airworthiness requirements.” Some required “immediate corrective action to bring the aircraft back into compliance,” Foushee said. The audit memo added the data collected indicated that “a majority” of the planes in question to be inspected do not meet FAA airworthiness requirements.

When the issues were first discovered in May of 2018, FAA gave Southwest two years to complete the inspections to verify all required maintenance and repairs had been done properly. But in October, the FAA inspector in charge of Southwest said the airline had only evaluated 39 planes, calling it slow to complete the inspections in a letter sent to the company and seeking additional information about those aircraft.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) union released the following statement concerning the Southwest situation: “Recent reporting on Southwest Airlines 88 Skyline Aircraft indicates that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) internal Office of Audit and Evaluation raised issues with the carrier’s failure to ensure conformity with all FAA airworthiness requirements, which is a growing cause of concern to the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA)… In our view, these lapses occurred because of Southwest’s choice to prioritize on-time performance over safety,” AMFA National Director Bret Oestreich stated.

Meanwhile, the Boeing 737 Max Saga continues. Some are predicting a return to service for the aircraft in January while others are saying not before March. Southwest’s pilot union issued a letter to its members saying, “Boeing is increasingly publicizing that they may have to shut down their production line due to running out of room to store completed MAX aircraft. There is some concern that this is simply another tactic to push the RTS timeline up, force operators to resume making payments on MAX aircraft, and transfer some costs, logistics, and responsibilities of storing and restoring the MAX to revenue service to respective operators.”

Boeing says there are five key milestones they must complete with the FAA before return to service. The first of the five, the FAA eCab Simulator Certification Session: A multi-day eCab simulator evaluation with the FAA to ensure the overall software system performs its intended function, both normally and in the presence of system failures, was successfully concluded and are now they are working towards the FAA line pilots evaluation and the FAA certification flight test. “We are working closely with the FAA and other regulatory authorities as we work towards certification and safe return to commercial service, and we are taking the time to answer all of their questions. With the rigorous scrutiny being applied, we are confident the MAX will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly,” a Boeing statement says.

Additionally, B737 NGs were found to have cracking in the pickle fork area as has been reported in the recent months. More than 30 aircraft were found to have the cracking sooner than would normally be expected. FAA issued an AD requiring inspections of aircraft prior to the accumulation of 30,000 total flight cycles, or within 7 days after the effective date of the AD and those inspections and corrective actions are underway. Qantas reported finding cracking under 27,000 cycles on two aircraft.

Finally, let me introduce a new feature in the magazine. Safety expert Jeff Guzzetti will be taking a look back at accidents over the years that have had a contributing factor related to maintenance. The first is on page 36.

These are cautionary tales that we can all learn from. Guzzetti, after a career at both the NTSB and FAA, is now heading a safety consulting firm. We are fortunate to have his expertise. Please let us know what you think of the series and if you have any accidents you would like him to include in the series.