From UAL's employee web site.
March 22, 2002
United Strongly Disagrees with Forbes Article that
Questions the Company's Maintenance Practices
United Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Studdert
responded today to a lengthy article in the
April issue of Forbes magazine, which calls into question the industry's
maintenance practices and cites several incidents at United to support
"This article is so misleading," says Studdert, "that it borders on
defaming our more than 12,000 dedicated, highly skilled, aircraft
maintenance technicians. Although the reporter himself notes that
statistics demonstrate air safety is improving, he proceeds to use
United to support his working premise that airlines are 'getting sloppy
Editor's note: I don't think the Forbes article defames the maintenance
technicians, but rather, the attitude of UAL management that discourages
these technicians from reporting safety problems of the aircraft.
Perhaps Mr. Studdert is unaware that two of his mechanics,
and George Gulliford,
were fired shoftly after whistleblowing on safety issues?
Regardless, if Mr. Studdert feels that Forbes has defamed his
employees, why doesn't he put his money where his mouth is and
initiate legal proceedings against the magazine?
The Forbes story cites several maintenance errors that are not
substantiated in any of United's extensive maintenance records or quality-
assurance reports. Studdert says that in instances when problems did
occur, United or its FAA- certified vendor discovered them, reported them,
then followed up and fixed the process so the errors would not reoccur.
Sadly, we're already well acquainted with United's ability to keep
track of its own records, as it managed to "misplace" those belonging
to employees Anne Puccini
and Gregory Kevakian
when issues of compensation arose.
As a special bonus, a current UAL employee who wishes to remain
anonymous (for obvious reasons) sent us copies of the maintenance
records (from United's computerized maintenance logbook) referred
to in the Forbes article.
Media sources may contact us to obtain the full set
of these records.
Click for full resolution image.
Mr. Studdert, are you really sure that these don't exist?
"In my opinion," he adds, "our quality assurance and follow-up are what
make our maintenance program the best in the industry."
No arguments there -- United certainly does have a great reputation
for providing "assurances" about quality. But what concerns us more
is United's ability to deliver on that quality, in an environment
of mistrust and
continued intimidation of employees.
Bill Norman, vice president-Line Maintenance, echoed Studdert's assessment
of the article.
"We received high marks during the FAA's safety audit of U.S. carriers,"
says Norman. "We have the industry's lowest inflight engine-shutdown rate
across all our fleets, and most of our maintenance practices exceed FAA
requirements by a wide margin. That's why the U.S. Air Force and many
commercial airlines rely on us to perform their maintenance. Maintenance
is one of the areas where United sets the benchmarks for the industry.
The two employees quoted in the Forbes story who commented on United's
maintenance practices did not represent the facts correctly, nor do their
opinions represent the thousands of highly skilled technicians across
our system. We take great pride in the quality of the work we produce."
It's interesting that Mr. Norman focusses on the one statistic
(inflight engine-shutdown rates) where UAL did well... I wonder
whether he would oblige us by offering all of the
statistics? Also, what are readers supposed to infer from "most of
our maintenance practices exceed FAA requirements..."? What about
the ones that don't?
I'm inclined to agree that the two
employees quoted in the Forbes story don't represent the thousands
of technicians across UAL. However, Mr. Norman, neither do you.
So here's what I'm suggesting we do: let's open up a web-based
voting page that asks your employees whether they agree with the
mechanics or with you and your management colleagues? If you'd
like to manage this process yourself, please contact me to discuss
how this should be done; otherwise, I'll be happy to help out
and set up the page at Untied.com.
Senior Vice President-Flight Operations Capt. Steve Forte affirmed the
sentiments of Studdert and Norman, adding, "As a United pilot for more
than 23 years, I have complete confidence in our maintenance procedures
and the quality of the work performed by our technicians. They do an
Studdert will contact Forbes to express United's outrage with the content
of the story.