Machinists Withdraw From Comair Aviation Safety Program


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Machinists Withdraw From Comair Aviation Safety Program

By Jim Douglas

August 3, 2010 - The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 142 announced it has withdrawn from the maintenance Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) at Delta Air Lines’ regional subsidiary Comair.

“We have discussed the problems with this dysfunctional program with both Comair and the FAA for months,” said IAM District 142 President Tom Higginbotham, “We no longer have any faith that this program will ever be managed according to the regulations.”

The ASAP program, a joint initiative between the Machinists Union, Comair and the FAA in place since 2008, was designed to identify potential aircraft maintenance-related safety issues and develop corrective actions to improve air transportation safety.


The program is dependant upon technicians submitting reports which are then reviewed by an Event Review Committee (ERC) comprised of FAA, Comair and Machinists Union representatives. The ERC then identifies any problems or systemic issues and develop corrective solutions to prevent a future reoccurrence.

The goal of the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is to enhance aviation safety through the prevention of accidents and incidents. Its focus is to encourage voluntary reporting of safety issues and events that come to the attention of employees of certain certificate holders.

To encourage an employee to voluntarily report safety issues even though they may involve an alleged violation of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), enforcement-related incentives have been designed into the program. An ASAP is based on a safety partnership that will include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the certificate holder, and may include any third party such as the employee's labor organization.

The ASAP program is designed to take place without the reporting technician having to fear any punitive or disciplinary actions. Comair has taken actions against Machinist Union members who have submitted voluntary reports, contrary to the letter and spirit of the FAA’s ASAP program. Additionally, Comair has failed to provide a collaborative environment needed for an effective program to work.

“We should not have to wait for an accident to occur before addressing safety issues,” said Higginbotham. “We are disappointed that Comair failed to take this program, which is effective and runs well at over 35 other carriers, seriously.”


The FAA’s safety mission requires it to take action to reduce or eliminate the possibility or recurrence of accidents in air transportation. Over the past several years, the FAA and the air transportation industry have sought innovative means for addressing safety problems and identifying potential safety hazards. To this end, the FAA, in cooperation with industry, established several demonstration ASAPs in an effort to increase the flow of safety information to both the air carrier and FAA, and issued an ASAP AC in January 1997.

Among these programs were the USAir Altitude Awareness Program, the American Airlines Safety Action Partnership, and the Alaska Airlines Altitude Awareness Program. These programs included incentives to encourage employees of air carriers participating in the programs to disclose information which may include possible violations of 14 CFR without fear of punitive enforcement sanctions or company disciplinary action. Events reported under a program that involved an apparent violation by the air carriers of the regulations were handled under the Voluntary Disclosure Policy, provided that the elements of the policy were satisfied.

In view of the positive safety results from those programs, the FAA issued a revised ASAP AC in March 2000, which established industry-wide guidelines for participation. Based on the lessons learned from over two dozen programs established since that date, the present AC contains revised guidance to facilitate achievement of ASAP’s safety goals, as well as to encourage wider participation in the program. This revised guidance is based upon the recommendations of an ASAP Aviation Rulemaking Committee, comprised of representatives from airlines, labor associations, and FAA management.

The Machinists Union represents 530 Comair Mechanic and Related employees in Cincinnati, OH; Boston, MA; New York, NY; Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, NC and Detroit, MI. The IAM is the largest airline union in North America, representing more than 110,000 airline workers in various classifications, including aircraft maintenance, flight attendant, fleet service, passenger service, reservation agents, office & clerical, stock clerk and flight simulator technician.


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