Friday, April 11, 2008

The MD-80 Saga Continues

Wow, what a week this has been for the MD-80 pilots at AA. Not to mention the traveling public.

Last month there was a grounding of a large number of the fleet due to wiring issues related to an Airworthiness Directive. It was supposedly completed and all was well with the fleet...or so we thought.

My trip this week was to be a three day affair with layovers in San Antonio and Salt Lake City. Day one went nicely with a turnaround to Atlanta and then on to San Antonio. It was the NCAA final four weekend and the city was packed with basketball fans. I had some extra time so I went out and did the tourist thing myself along the Riverwalk and the Alamo.

Back to DFW and then on to SLC for a short layover. SLC is a hub for Delta Air Lines. I shot this 767 launching from runway 16L.

The next day was to be a long one with five legs planned.
We had completed two legs and were just about to pushback from Albuquerque with a full load when the agent came on board to tell us that AA had grounded the entire MD-80 fleet. Another apology and soon everybody had gotten off the plane.

Sensing an impending extended stay in ABQ, I had the FO call our hotel and get us rooms for the night before they filled up. Then I called our dispatcher to see if he knew anything. He said that the FAA had been doing an audit at DFW of AA's previous MD-80 repairs and found that the repairs weren't up to their standards so they (the FAA) grounded several planes right then and there. AA subsequently chose to ground the entire fleet in order to re-inspect all the previously repaired airplanes.

This was looking bad! We all went to our hotel which was within walking distance of the airport and settled in and waited for news from AA. At least I had a view of the mountains.

Initially the plan was to ferry as many planes as possible back to the big hubs where maintenance could perform the inspections. So we were told that the next day we would be ferrying our plane back to DFW.

The next day we all went over to the airport, (including another MD-80 crew and several commuters trying to get to work), and we waited and waited and waited most of the day for the ferry permit from the FAA and the official word that we had legal authority to ferry the plane back to DFW. The ferry permit was finally received but then we got word that the DFW hub was expecting severe weather and that AA didn't want any more MD-80's parked there at the mercy of the possible hailstorm and tornadoes that were forecast. So back to the hotel we went.

The next morning brought some better news. We had the go-ahead to fly. Soon we were holding short of the runway and waiting for this C-17 to get out of our way!

We just wanted to get airborne before anything else happened.

Fortunately we made it all the way to DFW. After landing I had never seen so many MD-80's in one location! They were parked everywhere. All grounded awaiting inspections.

So the three day trip turned into a five day ordeal. It was reminiscent of my 9/11 trip where I was stuck away from home for almost a week.

As of today, AA has well over half the fleet still grounded. The apologies from AMR headquarters are coming fast and furious. Now I don't blame AA entirely...the FAA and their embarrassment from the recent Southwest Airlines incident is what brought on most of this whole situation. This monumental mess will cost AA in the tens of millions.

I'm going on vacation next week to Europe. Good thing I'm not flying on AA. I wonder if they'll still be in business when I return?

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple.

1 comment:

mlesser said...

Thats tough mate, sorry to hear. Have fun in europe, i wish i could pop across there for a holiday sometime soon, but im going to the outback for a year in a week.

If you dont mind me asking, what was teh southwest ordeal?