United Airlines said Thursday it had to carry out unscheduled maintenance on seven of its Boeing 747 jets but found no safety-related issues.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency did not order the grounding of United’s planes, as at least one report indicated.
United’s disclosure was not related to the FAA’s check of maintenance records at all U.S. airlines, ordered after revelations surfaced about missed safety inspections at Southwest Airlines Co., Gregor said.
United spokeswoman Jean Medina said one of the jets was back in service Thursday afternoon and the other six were to return on schedule later. The between-flights maintenance took longer than expected but there were no delays to passenger service, she said.
A piece of test equipment used to check the accuracy of the altitude-indicating system on its 747s was past the date that it needed to be checked for proper calibration, United said.
The 747s’ maintenance underscored the tensions between United and its mechanics that has heightened as the Chicago-based airline has increasingly outsourced maintenance work overseas. About half of United’s nearly 6,000 mechanics are based at the San Francisco International Airport.
Teamsters spokeswoman Leslie Miller said the union, which is seeking to represent United’s mechanics in a vote currently under way, heard that the South Korean repair station where 747s are serviced was using improper equipment.
“This just shows how risky it is to send airplanes offshore to be repaired,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement. “Overseas repair stations simply don’t meet the same standards as U.S. repair stations. The FAA should no longer allow U.S. airlines to send their repairs overseas.”
United says its maintenance requirements and procedures meet and typically exceed FAA standards. “They are the same no matter where the work is performed — in the United States or overseas,” Medina said.