Maintenance records should be retained. Carmody (1997) says that “FAR sets forth the minimum content requirements and retention requirements for maintenance records. This means that aviation maintenance records should be kept in any format which provides record continuity and includes required contents, lends itself to the addition of new entries, provides for signature entry and not confusing (Carmody, 1997). Carmody (1997) also says “those records of maintenance, alteration and required or approved inspections should be retained until the work is repeated or superseded by other work for one year” (p.248). It is significant that the records be retained and transferred with the aircraft at the time of sale.
Maintenance records should include a description of the work performed. Carmody (1997) says that the description should be in sufficient detail to permit a person unfamiliar with the work to understand what was done including the methods and procedures used in doing it. Another importance of detailed records is that they include the date the work accomplished and if the alteration was completed. Carmody (1997) says that this is normally the date upon which the work was approved for return to service, however when work is accomplished by one person and approved for return to service by another person the dates may differ and hence in such cases two signatures may appear but single entry is acceptable in such circumstances.
Records should be kept of all required inspections including 100 hour annual and progressive inspections. Speciale (2003) indicated that “the records for this type of inspections should include an identification of the program used, identify the portion or segment of the inspection program accomplished” (p. 136). They should also contain statements that the inspection was performed in accordance with the instructions and procedures of that program.
Speciale (2003) further says that if separate records for airframe, engines, propellers, and appliances are kept there must be separate entry for each placed in the appropriate maintenance logs. He continues to say that the annual inspection should be entered only into the airframe record (Speciale, 2003).The total time in service should be indicated in the maintenance records. Speciale (2003) says that “time in service with respect to maintenance records means the time from the moment an aircraft leaves the surface of the earth until it touches down at the next point of landing” (p. 136).
Compliance with the complex regulations of maintenance records and activities are subject to documents and statements ad assertions in those records and documents (Speciale 2006). Issues and questions related to the airworthiness of an aircraft starts with an inspection of aircraft maintenance records and logbooks as well. Speciale (2006) says that “the reliance on documentary evidence for safety of an aircraft places a premium on honesty and accuracy in aviation related documentation of airplane repair” (p. 74).
Falsification of maintenance records results from failure to properly comply with document requirements which can cause a lot of problems with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Falsification of documentary requirements can also lead criminal prosecution due to knowingly and willfully making materially false statements regarding facts within the purview of the federal regulatory agency.
Speciale (2006) further says that penalties for violation of the statues call for fines and terms of imprisonment of up to five years. In addition Speciale indicated that it is important to note that making false statements about the maintenance records of aviation the courts some times hold that someone may have acted willfully or knowingly if she acted with a reckless disregard for the truth (p. 74). It is important to note that government authorities regularly prosecute individuals for violation of aviation maintenance records. Speciale (2006) says that the cases involve falsification of certificates and logbooks and false statements about the airworthiness of an airplane.
Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) says that in aviation maintenance, the procedures for specific tasks tend to be the major perspective. The ethical challenges in aviation maintenance include data smoothing, pencil whipping and not knowing when to act. According to Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) data smoothing is a term used to falsify data so that it is within certain allowable limits.
For example Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) says one mechanic was supposed to manually pump grease using a greasing gun through a greasing nipple on the brace. According to Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) an “experienced mechanic showed his young mechanic a trick of pumping a few strokes and then taking a bit of new grease and applying it with finger at the other end of the brace” (p. 30).
Pencil whipping refers to signing job that has not been performed (Patankar, Brown & Treadwell, 2005 p. 31). In their studies they indicated that many mechanics will sign-off an item as completed when in fact he has forgotten to complete that item. In this context Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) say that “multiple job task cards have been falsely and intentionally signed off as complete” (p. 31).
In the aviation industry due to the “desperate need to keep the airplanes flying on schedule while fighting the gruesome fare wars managers are forced to accomplish maintenance checks in a fraction of the required time contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations which leads to false maintenance records for an airplane (Patankar, Brown & Treadwell, 2005 p. 31).
However another cause of falsification is failure to know when to act. Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) say that procedural violations in aviation maintenance are inevitable because there too many procedures. The procedures are part of the federal regulations and therefore it is practically impossible for management to ensure consistent compliance. Patankar, Brown & Treadwell (2005) say that increased emphasis on on-time performance rather than safety has encouraged shortcuts thus leading to falsification of aviation maintenance records.
The Aviation Online Magazine (nd) “Chapter 12. Publications, Forms, & Records” says that “the aviation community relies heavily on trust and honesty in written communication. The maintenance log entries provide the documentation trail relied upon by aircraft owners, pilots and technicians regarding the aircrafts maintenance history”. The Aviation Online Magazine (n d) “Chapter 12. Publications, Forms, & Records” continues to indicate that “falsification of these records is potentially dangerous to the personnel who rely on the accuracy of these records”.
The Aviation Online Magazine (n d) “Chapter 12. Publications, Forms, & Records” also notes that “under the section maintenance records: Falsification, reproduction, or alterationalso indicated that “fraudulent entries are unacceptable and thus if someone commits such an act that action is he basis for suspension”. In addition such individuals are subject to revocation of the appropriate certificate, authorization or approval.
Cobb & Primo (2003) argues that planes typically spend more time on the ground than in the sky. They thus say that while aircraft remain out of flight sequence their maintenance and the performance of personnel should be closely monitored by the FAA and the airplane. Cobb & Primo (2003) indicated that “after the crash of USAir flight 427 the airlines flights operations the maintenance records were examined, ad on a number of occasions USAir flights were found to have left the gate without sufficient fuel” (p. 160). Cobb & Primo (2003) also said that press reports revealed sloppy record keeping and maintenance procedures and even the airlines procedural manuals raised a lot of concerns. As a result the company was categorized as unsafe because of lax over sight of record keeping and ground operations (Cobb & Primo, 2003).
In this context, Cobb & Primo (2003) commented that incomplete record keeping and surveillance made the airline unsafe. FAA officials never used the term record keeping to refer to this case instead they used terms like an accounting problem not a substance problem and audit problems not safety problems (Cobb & Primo, 2003). Moreover, Szurovy (1998) commented that keeping track of hours flown, recording and resolving maintenance squawks and monitoring aircraft performance are the key operational elements in aviation maintenance.
Reproduction of these records should be avoided because reliability of maintenance records and their correctness can not be overlooked in the maintenance of aviation records (Pollard, 2005). Pollard says that “maintenance records reliability or correctness is the responsibility of the aircraft owner and not the maintenance personnel who do the work or recording” (2005 p. 31). All the FAR requirements should be met by the maintenance personnel. Pollard (2005) says that this is achieved by ensuring that quality work and recording the records correctly and that no inspections or maintenance pertinent to the aircraft is being overlooked or omitted.
Sheehan (2003) continues to say that “while many operators or pilots rely of the integrity of their technicians and maintenance contractors to ensure that all this paperwork is complete they should appreciate and comply with the maintenance and inspection program thy use” (p. 24). Another importance of well maintained records is that when it comes to the time of selling the aircraft gaps and inconsistency in the maintenance records may raise question regarding its true state o airworthiness and value (Sheehan, 2003).
Nowadays, Sheehan (2003) says that computerized maintenance recordkeeping systems have enabled the corporate operator to plan for upcoming inspections and required maintenance and life limited items and to track the status of all these requirements. Sheehan (2003) also says that “the combination of source documents such as work cards, parts transaction reports, discrepancy actions and tracking lists meets regulatory requirements, these systems may constitute the actual aircraft may constitute the actual aircraft maintenance records” (p. 25).However caution must be taken because computerized maintenance records tracking systems do not automatically provide the operator with a set of records that meet all regulatory requirements for maintenance records (Sheehan, 2003).
In conclusion, despite the ethical challenges faced with maintenance of correct maintenance records in the aviation industry aircraft owners must strive to counter this dilemma. In order to minimize alterations and falsification of aviation maintenance records flight departments should consider maintaining both the required aircraft records and also participate fully in a records tracking system service (Sheehan, 2003). In this case it worthy noting that the two systems complement one another they can act as a system of checks and balances to ensure that all required maintenance records are correct and reliable. Sheehan (2003) says that this system is impressive when it comes time to sell the aircraft.