CHICAGO (CBS) — A profanity-laced video has raised questions about safety on one of the biggest airlines at O’Hare International Airport, and about what is acceptable behavior in the workplace.
In a story you’ll see only on CBS 2, Mike Puccinelli sat down with the mechanic who recorded the video. The mechanic said what he caught on tape is just part of a much larger issue.
You can hear the anger in the voice of an American Airlines supervisor yelling at mechanic Jason Lopata at O’Hare last November.
“Every time you come down here, you write s*** up, and you f*****g leave,” the supervisor said.
***WARNING: The video below includes profanity***
“He’s angry because I wrote up a safety issue, and he didn’t want that airplane not to go flying. He wanted the airplane to go flying,” Lopata said.
It’s not clear exactly what happened before or after the 33-second video, but Lopata explained an earlier incident at O’Hare triggered the supervisor’s outburst.
“You stuck a plane up my a** last time for three f******g minutes, and I trusted you.”
When Lopata told the supervisor he was doing his job, the supervisor angrily shot back, “You’re not doing your job. If you did your job, you’d fix these f*****g issues that you’re writing up.”
“I am. I’ve got to go home. I only work eight hours,” Lopata responded.
When another employee stepped in to try to calm things down, Lopata said he’d been subjected to a hostile work environment the whole night.
Lopata said, a week before the incident, the same supervisor lashed out at him over a three-minute delay for repairs to another plane.
“The aircraft took a delay. I had a bunch of work I had to do on the airplane. It took a three-minute delay,” he said.
Why is a three-minute delay that big of a deal?
“That’s what management says. This comes from high up. Any delay is a big deal to them,” Lopata said.
Lopata posted video of the supervisor’s outburst on YouTube last week. He filed a formal complaint with the airline and the Federal Aviation Administraiton in November, accusing the supervisor of using profanity, and telling him “my job was not to find items wrong.”
“Nothing was ever done about it,” Lopata said.
The mechanic said, because American Airlines and the FAA didn’t take action, he posted the video online and reached out to CBS 2.
Lopata said, right before the incident he recorded on video, he had discovered a potential problem with a plane – bubbling paint due to corrosion. He wrote up that corrosion right before he ended his shift, the apparent trigger for his supervisor’s tirade.
The mechanic said, if he hadn’t written up the corrosion he found, he would have been neglecting his duties.
“If I find something that is unsafe, I am legally bound to report it,” he said. “American wants mechanics to look away, and not to address it. That’s the problem.”
Lopata said he doesn’t want the supervisor fired, because it’s a systemic problem at American.
The airline said the supervisor has been removed from duty while it investigates, adding the actions “captured here do not reflect caring and respect, core values we expect all team members to show each other.”
As for Lopata’s wider claims that American Airlines wants mechanics to look the other way when they find problems, the airline said “we are proud of our strong safety culture and safety record.”
American also said it’s involved in a heated contract battle with the mechanics’ union, but Lopata said this is a human issue, not a union issue.