What was behind the cancellations?
American's (AA) problem and other Airlines' cancellation of flights stems from a September 2006 airworthiness directive (AD), based on a July 2006 Boeing Co. service bulletin, required airlines to inspect the planes (MD-80) within 18 months and do any required modifications.The 2006 directive said the work was needed "to prevent shorted wires or arcing at the auxiliary hydraulic pump, which could result in loss of auxiliary hydraulic power, or a fire in the wheel well of the airplane; and to reduce the potential of an ignition source adjacent to the fuel tanks, which, in combination with flammable fuel.”
Whose fault was it?
Was this a case of AA failing to comply with the AD? It appears that AA performed the inspections and the work was approved by a different FAA inspectors that where assigned to AA. But the new inspectors did not agree with the approval records and hence the mess. So, was this more of a FAA auditing problem or a problem of AA not doing the inspections? Evidence points to the FAA , but AA paid the price...
What can be done to mitigate future related risks for the airlines (and the passengers)?
Putting all the political FAA and AA issue debate aside, this shows how important having the “Best” Asset Management System is. In Tivoli's Maximo Configuration Manager for Aerospace solution, service bulletins and airworthiness directives are entered and associated to each related aircraft to have maintenance work performed. As part of the process, all work, materials, costs and documentation (including pictures) are recorded and time stamped for each asset. It would have to include, who did the work and who approved the work. We are investing a lot architecting such solutions for airlines. The use of Maximo for Aerospace solution could significantly help companies like AA, to show what work had been performed and on what specific assets.