AMFA Leadership Cast Vote of “No Confidence” in SWA VP of Maintenance Operations
Citing Degraded Supervisory Maintenance Culture and Pressure to Subordinate Safe Maintenance Practices as Reason for Vote
Centennial, Co. – February 22, 2018 – Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association leaders cast a vote of “no confidence” today in Southwest Airlines Vice President of Maintenance Operations Landon Nitschke, asking Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven to relieve Nitschke of his duties and responsibilities.
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union representing the AMTs at Southwest, took the vote after reports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that Southwest’s maintenance supervisors have engaged in a pattern of coercive conduct toward the airline’s AMTs that has degraded the safety culture at Southwest and placed the safety of the flying public at risk.
“We did not undertake a vote of no confidence lightly as we have diligently attempted to get these issues resolved,” said Bret Oestreich, AMFA National Director. “During VP Landon Nitschke tenure, Southwest has created a culture and workplace of hostility, retaliation, and unethical behavior and is degrading the safety culture throughout the Southwest maintenance system. Safety is paramount to us as AMTs. We cannot let his behavior continue.”
Consistent with the FAA’s findings, and the routine complaints of Southwest AMTs, the reasons for the vote include:
AMTs are being discouraged from reporting and documenting safety issues. They are pressured to subordinate safe maintenance practices to the airline’s objective of “on-time” performance.
Under Nitschke’s watch, Southwest maintenance supervisors retaliate against employees who document airworthiness discrepancies. A September 2017 FAA report characterized his methods as “a tool used to influence a relaxing of standards, to look the other way, or to gain a degree of approval through a leniency of standards. The result of this pattern is a capitulation of airworthiness and a culture of fear and retribution.”
AMTs and Inspectors are pressured to perform their work in a manner that violates FAA standards and to sign off on work without careful inspection. Under FAA directives, this is a violation of their certifications.Consequently, AMTs and Inspectors, fearful of prejudicing the public’s safety and losing their own FAA licenses, have increasingly resorted to using Department of Labor Whistleblower Protection (AIR21) to report violations.
“Maintaining safe aircraft in accordance with federal aviation standards takes time and money,” said Oestreich. “Nitschke doesn’t seem to care. His decisions have destroyed employee morale and will cause highly skilled, tenured technicians to leave the airline. We need a change. We are hoping that Southwest’s leadership recognizes that Nitschke is destroying the safety culture, which Southwest was once so proud of, and will remove him before there are tragic consequences.”