FAA unable to verify workers' jet-fuel safety complaints at Sea-Tac
The Federal Aviation Administration inspected aircraft-fueling operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Friday and found none of the unsafe conditions alleged by employees, the FAA told airport authorities.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Federal Aviation Administration inspected aircraft-fueling operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday and found none of the unsafe conditions alleged by employees, the FAA told airport authorities.
Lynn Deardorff, an FAA certification safety inspector, wrote in an email to the airport that he and another inspector checked fueling operations and equipment of the airport's largest aircraft-fueling contractor, ASIG, in response to a demonstration Wednesday by supporters of a fueler who said he was suspended for complaining about safety problems.
"None of the operations that we observed showed any negligence or unsafe practices," Deardorff wrote. He said ASIG operations had been inspected two weeks earlier "and no major violations were noted."
ASIG fuels about 75 percent of the planes at Sea-Tac, including those flown by Alaska, United and Southwest.
Inspectors on Friday visited aircraft-fueling operations, looked at several fuel trucks and carts, talked to fuelers and supervisors, visited the maintenance shop, a storage area and a fuel-vehicle staging area.
They were accompanied by a Port of Seattle Fire Department fire-prevention inspector.
Deardorff's email said the FAA looked for safety problems claimed on Wednesday by workers including Alex Popescu, who said he was suspended from his job as an ASIG fueler after repeatedly complaining about safety issues.
Popescu, who spoke at a demonstration organized by Working Washington — a group with ties to Service Employees International Union — showed blown-up photographs of broken ladders, allegedly unsafe nozzle handles, spilled engine coolant and a gearshift panel held in place by electrical tape.
Popescu also said he had complained to supervisors and the Port Fire Department about a truck's defective brakes, and has seen jet fuel dripping as passenger planes are being fueled. Workers said in a written message to ASIG they had voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike over safety issues, although they are not represented by a labor union.
"Upon our inspection," the FAA's Deardorff wrote Friday, "it was determined none of the allegations made by this employee were evident."
Popescu, reached by phone Friday, declined to comment on the FAA's findings. "This is the first I'm hearing about it," he said. "I don't know what they looked at. I can't speak on anybody else's behalf."
"This is an assurance to the public that our operations are safe, efficient and that they don't have to have any worries about aircraft operations here at Sea-Tac," Port spokesman Perry Cooper said.
If employees see a safety problem, Cooper said, "Let us know about it because we want to correct it. That's something we've been trying to re-emphasize to folks out here."
Working Washington spokeswoman Thea Levkovitz said the FAA "never contacted any of the workers who had the safety issues" to ask their help in finding unsafe equipment. "There's a lot of equipment out there," she said.
Popescu, addressing a Port of Seattle Commission meeting in August, asked commissioners to smell jet-fuel-stained clothing that he and others brought to the meeting and that he said was typical of the clothing fuelers take home every day to wash at home. He asked commissioners to work with airport vendors to create "good-paying jobs, safe jobs."
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org