How we got here
In the early 90s the Helicopter Association International began having seminars for Membership Company’s Management, introducing the self-disclosure option that was offered to the FAA. The company began using this action very often to circumvent getting fined by the FAA for infractions that were committed.
One occasion it was used disclosing hanger maintenance technicians in the hanger, that were required to sign in a work order for the Repair Station. Three people are required to sign in the three blocks on the work order. Block one: Responsible Person, block two: Supervisor, and block three: Inspector. The particular action was flight control rigging on an S 76. A new digital protractor was used during the rigging procedure. After completing the task the aircraft went to the flight line for test flight. The aircraft return to the hanger with a complaint about tail rotor controls. The aircraft entered the hanger to get a quick rig check on the tail rotor controls. The Hanger Lead Supervisor questioned the crew as to what they were doing! Their response “They were doing a quick rig check on the tail rotor controls.”
The Hanger Lead Supervisor complied with the quick rig procedure himself, declared the Aircraft Airworthy. The aircraft was released for flight. The first revenue flight that was schedule, the aircraft tail rotor controls were off enough that the Pilot had to abort landing offshore on the oil platform, and returned to base.
The company self-disclosed on the incident, and all three mechanics that had signed the work order were given time off without pay, and a letter from the FAA were put in their files. The Hanger Lead Supervisor escaped any punishment or letter in his file, plus was given a bonus later in the year for his efficiency by the company. In addition the Hanger Lead Supervisor was doing the evaluations on the technicians that signed the work order.
The event awakened a need for the lack of money’s for employees to afford legal representation on their behalf. Several employees came up with the idea and chartered the “Aviation Employees Legal Defense Fund” to quell supervisors running roughshod over employees. This organization kept its membership confidential and had both pilots and mechanics of members. The AELDF used the money’s from its membership to provide Aviation and Labor Attorneys on retainer for disputes that were encountered.
Not all pilots and mechanics were dues paying members. Company Management was not sure who the members were, so everyone reaped the benefits because the membership remained confidential. We later learned this organization was protected by “The Railway Labor Act” and had Federal protection to organize without fear of retribution. The Organization slowed blatant disputes, but was not infallible to attacks on individuals that were not members, and the membership voted to seek Union representation.
The pilots were the first to vote in Union Representation and the mechanics received benefits from contracts that were agreed upon by the pilots and management. The Aviation Employees Legal Defense Fund was liquidated due to the pilot members that were all Unionized and paying Union dues, with a Contract, and more benefits and higher salaries. Time passed and the mechanics decided that they needed to get organized, much like the pilots in order to have legal protection, and to get a contract for their benefits and salaries also.
Our group of mechanics and technicians along with the OPEIU can make a difference in the success of Bristow, as a safe well represented company for the future, in the Offshore Oil Industry we have served for over 42 years in the Gulf of Mexico and International.