PAMA takes initiative on Mx problems and solutions; Goglia offers aggressive approach

PAMA News

PAMA Takes Initiative

on Mx problems and solutions; Goglia offers aggressive approach

By Brian Finnegan

September 2004

Brian Finnegan, President, Professional Aviation Maintenance Association Brian Finnegan ' President, Professional Aviation Maintenance Association

Any good mechanic knows how to fix a problem. First you figure out what's wrong and then you fix it. Next problem. Pretty simple. Well, we've all got a problem. A number of recent aircraft accidents have been attributed to maintenance error.

The aviation industry has been around the block on fixing safety of flight issues. During aviation's early years, manufacturing errors dominated the probable causes that brought many aircraft down. Improved materials and processes, stress and loads testing, and fail safe redundant systems have brought levels of safety to unprecedented highs.

Unfortunately, once we addressed the manufacturing issues, we then recognized human frailty in the cockpit. Pilot error then became the leading cause of a new generation of aircraft accidents. Instrument flying and automation relieved the labor intensive and fatiguing cockpit environment and regulation addressed critical duty time, training, and competency requirements. Accident rates continued their downward trend.

Now, as we peel away yet another layer, we find that aircraft mechanics need to be the next focus. Manufacturing quality, operator precision, and maintenance integrity are the three sturdy legs of the safety stool. All three are essential to maintaining the confidence of the flying ' and paying ' public.

Knowing that there is weakness in our aviation maintenance infrastructure does not mean we know exactly what the problem is or how to fix it. We must figure out what's wrong. But how? The answer is simple, but not simplistic: Let's ask the mechanics.

The quick industry response is 'We've already done that.' And they're right, to a point, because we do have a number of reporting vehicles like the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) and Malfunction and Defect (M&D) reports. But some problems lie with issues that may not rise to the level of an imminent safety threat, or they are part of a process that, while imperfect, has become an accepted part of that company's culture.

Then there is the fear of retribution. While not necessarily based on fact, there is a sense among many mechanics that self-disclosure of potential problems is tantamount to self-firing. Mechanics are can-do people and to self-disclose that we are fallible can be very difficult to do. We need a system in which there is mutual trust. What can we do?

Soliciting your Mx misadventures
What does John Goglia think? 'Let's close the information loop,' says Goglia, PAMA's SVP of government and technical programs. 'Let's ask the mechanics throughout our industry to report directly to me at PAMA those items that they may have done, or may have seen others do, that they feel might one day contribute to an accident.' So that is what we are doing.

Beginning immediately, PAMA is soliciting from all aircraft mechanics information on what Goglia has called 'Maintenance Misadventures' or, as we say at PAMA, 'Mx Misadventures.' To participate, email your thoughts, concerns, observations, and opinions directly to John Goglia at jgoglia@pama.org.

Tell us as much about the unsafe situation as you can, including the make and model of the aircraft and/or the environment in which you were working, the date, and the time of day. We also need to know about the level of training you or your colleagues had received. Was it enough? Had you requested more training? What is the safety culture like at your place of employment?

We'll guarantee your confidentiality by stripping off all submitter identification before it is posted in the Members section of the PAMA web site at www.pama.org. We are only interested in advancing safety within aviation maintenance. Help us with your input.

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