Carrier ends contract and fights injunction as union demands in-house maintenance

US Airways has grounded three of its Airbus A320 family aircraft and plans to stop flying another five aircraft until a dispute with a union over outsourcing heavy maintenance is resolved.

Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) says the carrier has terminated its nine-aircraft maintenance contract after only one aircraft was serviced. Because US Airways does not have the capability in-house to perform the required maintenance it has no choice but to ground the other eight aircraft as they come up for heavy checks.

An industry source says three aircraft have already been grounded and the other five will be over the next two months.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM), which in October won a court injunction blocking US Airways from outsourcing heavy Airbus maintenance, is trying to pressure the carrier to build an in-house capability (Flight International, 28 October-3 November 2003). But US Airways has not yet agreed to these demands and is instead fighting the injunction in court.

Last week a court in Philadelphia heard US Airways' appeal over the injunction and a decision is expected next month. If US Airways loses, it will reconsider forming an in-house maintenance programme for A320s, but this could take months to develop. If the airline wins the appeal, it will probably award a new contract to ST Aero or another maintenance and repair organisation.

ST Aero's Mobile, Alabama-based subsidiary, ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering, initially won a contract to overhaul 10 A319/A320s, all of which were to be serviced in the fourth quarter of 2003.

At the time the injunction was issued, last October, two aircraft were already at the Alabama facility. One aircraft, which had already been disassembled, was completed, while the other aircraft was returned to US Airways without being serviced.

Source: Flight International