Ex-Gulfstream Airlines Employees Speak Out On Maintenance, Safety Concerns
http://www.nbc6.net/headlinesonly/17546221/detail.htmlCompany Overlooked Inspections, Mechanic Says
POSTED: 10:25 am EDT September 24, 2008
UPDATED: 11:32 am EDT September 24, 2008
Former pilot Kenny Edwards alleged that flight time records were altered to conform to FAA guidelines.
“I can only speak for myself, Edwards said. “I felt it was unsafe to do so. I felt it was illegal to do so.”
Both men said they were fired by South Florida based Gulfstream Airlines for voicing safety concerns.
Each day 2, 500 passengers fly Gulfstream, which operates mostly as Continental Connection flights to 10 destinations in Florida and 10 in the Bahamas.
“The airplanes flew in essence not within the regulations set by the FAA?” NBC 6’s Willard Shepard asked.
“Not even close to it,” Brisco said.
Brisco, a Gulfstream mechanic in 2006 and 2007, said the company often disregarded sound maintenance procedures.
The aircraft would come in for scheduled inspections and the paper would be completed but the inspections would never be done,” Brisco said. “Or discrepancies that the pilots would document would be signed off and they would never be looked at.”
Last May, the nose gear failed on this Continental Connection/Gulfstream flight landing in Tampa. Brisco claims pilot complaints about other landing gear problems were at times not properly addressed by mechanics.
“I started complaining to the supervisor and then eventually to the vice president of maintenance that basically their records were being falsified,” Brisco said. “People were signing off work they weren't doing.”
The airline said it has a good safety record. Gulfstream Airlines president Dave Hackett said Brisco was not fired, but quit. He said: " He was having issues with other employees who were concerned with his very aggressive behavior and use of inappropriate language."
He was cited for refusing to display his security badge or sign a disciplinary agreement, according to the airlines.
But Brisco said those charges were fabricated.
After an inspection earlier this year the FAA discovered "automotive air conditioning compressors were installed in 27 beech aircraft operated by Gulfstream."
The parts were placed in an airplane air conditioning unit used to cool the airplane when it’s on the ground.
The FAA said the part is "virtually identical to FAA approved part,” however those "undergo a rigorous FAA quality control process to ensure they are safe for use in aircraft."
The FAA said it created "a low safety risk." Gulfstream replaced the units.
The airline turned down an on-camera interview but its president told us "there is no difference in the compressors," saying no passengers were ever in danger and "the airline places the highest priority on operating safely."
Safety was the issue when Edwards filed a whistle blower report with the FAA, launching an investigation which initially cleared Gulfstream -- but it has been re-opened.
"I called the dispatch supervisor and said I'm not comfortable taking this particular airplane," Edwards said.
Last December Edwards refused to fly a plane when its collision avoidance system stopped working.
“And I said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable in these conditions flying this plane,” and he said, ‘Are you refusing direct orders from your director of operations?’ and I said, ‘Well if you're going to put it that way then yes I am but I don't think it's safe.’”
It's not mandatory for the anti-collision system to be working, but Edwards said poor weather and a close pass to another aircraft on the previous flight leg caused him to refuse.
Edwards said that's a captain's decision his boss didn't honor.
“He said you need to get in the cockpit and you need to fly the airplane now,” Edwards said.
Gulfstream's president told NBC 6 that his reasons for refusing to fly were "nonsense."
“I got a letter of termination the next day," Edwards said.
Edwards also told the FAA that pilots were flying more hours than Federal regulations allow and that one week Gulfstream altered his flight numbers to keep them technically "legal".
"In each particular airplane that we flew we would write the actual flight time in and they didn't match what the company had,” Edwards said.
Edwards said documents prove it. On one flight he wrote in the plane's log that it pushed back from the gate at 7:30.
However the company's computer records show a start time of 7:55, a difference of 25 minutes. Gulfstream said that was for a maintenance delay and the plane returned to the gate.
But Edwards said it didn’t
NBC-6 spoke with one current and another former Gulfstream pilot and two former administrative employees who did not want to be identified. All say actual flight times were routinely "shaved" -- changed in the records so crews could remain legal.
"They were doctoring the time of the legs that had already been flown," an administrative employee said.
Three of the former employees told NBC 6 safety concerns led them to resign.
The airline said it found one isolated situation last year where "a crew scheduler made a mistake,” and that both the FAA and OSHA found no violations saying, "our policies, procedures and actions are all in full compliance."
Flying over allowed hours sometimes occurs with regional airlines according to one local aviation analyst.
"There are people who are going to get over on the times,” aviation analyst Tom Monoghan said. “But I don't think any of those reach or rise to the level where safety is a concern."
The Department of Labor found Gulfstream was justified in terminating Edwards.
Edwards said he plans to sue.
Continental had no comment.
Interesting article. Not to defend the place, but I am sure there is another side to this guy's story. <!--stopindex-->