American Airlines mechanic intentionally damages plane about to take off

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/06/american-airlines-mechanic-int.html

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Asshole%20%5Bsmall%5D

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Is this supposed to represent a saying? A jackass in a well? Is that a saying?

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Christ, what a sewer donkey.

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Cold as a welldigger’s ass?

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If a technician thinks this is a clever way for him to make more money, then this person is not smart enough to maintain any plane I want to be flying on. Just sayin’.

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Well, as long as he meant no harm to anybody, what’s the problem?

/s

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That gives me an idea. BRB…

Asshole%20-%20Well%2C%20Actually

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I like this anecdotal example of behavior economics. A person feels they need money to survive, or to get what they want for themselves. They are paid to fix planes, and paid substantially more to do so on overtime. They are thus incentivized to create overtime for themselves if they can do so and get away with it, or if their desire or need for that incentive outweighs their fear of consequences for getting caught.

I wonder how often this happens in any industry, and goes undiscovered or unreported.

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The man’s name is not going to be helpful to ongoing political conversations.

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I think surprisingly often:

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I know, right! I remember reading that story, and maybe one or two more like it. I wonder if there’s a Fermi-estimation approach for determining approximately how often this happens, given the number of cases which are caught and reported, and some sort of clever approximation of how often people are able to get away with it undetected or unreported.

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So… my problem with his masterplan is, if working overtime was in fact his goal, how was he okay with the plane heading out like that?

If the plane’s software hadn’t reported the error, is this something that could have taken it down? Or was the sabotage specifically rigged to trigger the error without messing up anything else?

Additionally, was he the only mechanic on duty? If not, how could he be sure he would be called to repair it, and not some other mechanic who started their shift later and wouldn’t be paid overtime for the work?

As masterplans go, this one feels not so masterful.

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Some idiot can’t tell his a$$ from a hole in the ground.

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I remember hearing a story, maybe someone can verify (quick google search didn’t bring up anything) that sometimes road crews who fix potholes will clean their shovels with diesel, and spill diesel on the tarmac, thus softening it in that spot and ensuring another pothole they can fix in the future.

“Job security.”

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Looks like an ass + hole.

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A certain amount of sandbagging to draw jobs out wouldn’t surprise me(especially since “slow repair” is something you can approach both in the spirit of cynicism, purely to try to score more hours, or in the spirit of dedicated care and perfectionism that happens to require more hours than budgeted; which likely attracts more people than things that don’t offer a morally pleasing option); but I’d be surprised if instances of "sabotage instrument important enough that a malfunction is cause for scrubbing a flight, in a way that is going to look awfully like hideous negligence and/or malice on inspection(I doubt that the official procedures call for much slopping of adhesives near intakes for important sensors, and if you do pull out the glue allowing bug chunks of debris to stick to the workpiece is probably a big no).

The incentive is obviously there; but the risks seem extremely high: unlike, say, a shady automobile mechanic, asymmetric information isn’t a safe assumption: an airline with a very expensive piece of capital equipment sitting idle next to a load of angry passengers is probably going to send someone qualified to have a careful look; and you can’t be sure it will be you or someone who won’t notice/will cover for you.

There’s also the fact that the stakes immediately get way higher because it’s a civil aviation situation and the flight has started. As the “nut rage” woman discovered to her regret, the rules get real serious real fast about the authority of the flight crew, locally, and various national and international aviation safety and regulation bodies generally, when those doors close.

This guy will be pretty lucky if his case is treated merely as attempted fraud/theft/similar against his employer; rather than someone adopting a humorless(but technically correct) “sabotage of a civil airliner” interpretation; which will go poorly.

As noted, this isn’t to suggest that I think all aircraft repair/inspection jobs are done fully in the interests of the employer; just that sabotage-based makework seems crazy risky compared to hypercautious overwork or just as much plodding ad can be snuck through. You might get fired, maybe sued, for those tactics; but way less likely to face a bunch of felony charges for always insisting on triple-checks or being in the bottom quintile for bolts tightened/hour.

(edit: back on a real computer, so here’s the criminal complaint. Title 18, United States Code, Section 32(a)(1) and (a)(8); “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both”. And that doesn’t preclude civil action against him by American, it’s just the bit that kicks in for messing with an aircraft specifically.)

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Without the automatic warning, the pilots would have (hopefully) noticed that (a) their indicated airspeed was zero, (b) they were airborne,and © concluded that their equipment had a problem.

Edit: I’m leaving the auto-generated “copyright” symbol in there, so don’t quote me without my permission!! =D Take that!

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Only thing I can figure is he thought it might return to gate and he be assigned to fix the problem he caused. Presumably someone else looked it over and found his sabotage.

Anyway, I hope he gets a nice long time to think about it in his cell.

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Without the automatic warning, the pilots would have (hopefully) noticed that (a) their indicated airspeed was zero, (b) they were airborne,and © concluded that their equipment had a problem.

®

Your move. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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