Aviation Technicians and Ethics

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Ethical Decision Making: Aviation Maintenance Technicians Follow More Than a Code Carl Jones
Social Responsibility & Ethics Management – MGMT 325
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Mrs. Linda Flowers
14 January 2013

Ethical decision making and job performance are intrinsically intertwined when speaking in terms of aviation maintenance technicians. With the rapidly expanding need for commercial aviation and events leading to the downturn in the economy, airlines are facing increasing pressure to reduce costs and keep their fleets flying. It is essential that during periods of such economic restraint, corners are not cut and safety remains paramount in order to maintain safe skies. Every year aviation mishaps and accidents occur worldwide. Unfortunately some end in tragedy and unbelievably, most were due to an error in judgment, lack of ethics, and a failure to comply with the code of conduct. Human factors studies report that “accidents happen” but what needs to be realized is accidents are also avoidable. If aviation maintainers and inspectors were to adhere more closely to policy and observe the Aviation Maintenance Technicians Model Code of Conduct, the number of maintenance mishaps and accidents could be greatly reduced. On September 11, 1991, flight 2574 bound for Huston broke up in mid-air due to improper maintenance and inspections. The crash was so bad the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) originally suspected a bomb was the cause. In the end after pulling maintenance records, the findings concluded the cause was maintenance related and avoidable. Air Safety Week (1993) summarized the event: Embraer 120 N33701 was pulled into the Continental Express hangar at Houston around 21:30 for scheduled maintenance that included removal and replacement of both left and right hand horizontal stabilizer deice boots. The second shift mechanics started working on the right hand deice boot. Although planned for the third shift, the 47 screws from the top of the left leading edge assembly for the horizontal stabilizer were already removed by the second shift. The third shift mechanics finished the replacement of the right hand deice boot but did not have time to replace the left hand boot as well. Flight 2574 departed Laredo for the return leg to Houston at 09:09. The cruise portion of the flight was uneventful and at 10:03 the aircraft was descending through 11800 feet to 9000 feet when the air loads caused the left horizontal stabilizer leading edge to bend downward and separate. A sudden severe nose down pitchover occurred and the wings stalled negatively. The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) recorded a negative g of 3.5. Eyewitnesses reported a bright flash and saw the aircraft breaking up while descending in a flat left spin until impact. (p. 4) After the final NTSB report was generated NTSB board member John K. Lauber filed a dissenting statement on the investigation report, believing the probable cause should read as follows: "1) The failure of Continental Express management to establish a corporate culture which encouraged and enforced adherence to approved maintenance and quality assurance procedures and 2) the consequent string of failures by Continental Express maintenance and inspection personnel to follow approved procedures for the replacement of the horizontal stabilizer deice boots. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate surveillance by the FAA of the Continental Express maintenance and quality assurance programs." (p. 4) In the NTSB/AAR-92/04 (1993) analysis of senior management and inspectors who were responsible for the crash, it explains that the evidence is clear that the events during the maintenance and inspection of N33701 the night before the accident were directly causal to the accident. Several errors were made by the individuals responsible for the airworthiness of the airplane. The Safety Board believes that the reasons for the errors and the overall failure of the...
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