That's one of the many shocking conclusions that followed a six-month USA Today investigation. The story was published today and is certain to make wary fliers even more wary.
One of the potentially catastrophic flights cited in the extensive page one story was American Airlines Flight 140 that departed Lambert-St. Louis International Airport at 1:03 p.m., September 28, 2007, a on a scheduled flight to Chicago.
Aboard the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 that Friday afternoon were 137 passengers, three cabin crew and two pilots. About five minutes into the flight an engine caught fire and the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing back at Lambert.
Reports USA Today:
"Thirteen days before the flight, mechanics replaced the engine's air turbine starter valve six times, but none of the replacements solved an engine-start problem, the NTSB said. At the gate prior to the flight, a mechanic used 'an unapproved tool' to start the engine, and damaged a component."
USA Today also found that airlines contract about 70 percent of their maintenance work to repair shops throughout the country where mistakes can be made by untrained or ill-equipped workers.
At the same time, airlines often disregard FAA inspectors' finding, use unapproved parts and defer maintenance beyond permissable time frames.