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Fly with them? You’ve Garuda be joking!!!!

Some years ago, before I was blacklisted for writing two books (RIP-OFF! and PLUNDERING THE PUBLIC SECTOR) exposing stupidity, greed and waste in the management consultancy industry, I was sent to a Southeast Asian country to work on a project in the maintenance division of their national airline. I won’t give you the name of the airline or show any pictures of their planes. But there may be more than a hint in the title of today’s post.

The airline had a bit of a problem. Following a number of exciting in-flight incidents covered up by pilots, the airline risked losing its FAA approval to fly into US airports. That could have led to a ban from European airports as well. So this would have been a disaster both for the airline and for national pride.

There were two parts to our job. Firstly, to knock the maintenance department into shape so that there were fewer life-threatening events. But there was also what management consultants like to call a ‘vision’. This was to make the maintenance department so effective that other airlines would subcontract some of their major plane overhauls to this airline as its labour costs were much lower than those for the major carriers.

On my second day on the first phase of the project, I accompanied one of our aircraft maintenance specialists to check the stock of spare parts. Armed with long lists of items like wings and landing gear, worth many millions of dollars, that should have been there we set off through the blazing tropical heat for the stores building. It was huge and rather empty apart from a lot of large hairy spiders who seemed most displeased by people disturbing their afternoon nap. Clearly the spiders were not used to people coming into the stores building.

As for all the spare parts that should have been there – well, who knows? Part of the problem was that due to the national habits of laziness and administrative incompetence, many parts may have been used but not marked off on the stock lists. But there is also a thriving market in aircraft parts, and it looked like the maintenance department managers had been hugely enriching themselves by flogging off wings and suchlike. Moreover, some parts marked as ‘new’ were clearly not new at all. Probably the new parts had been flogged off and replaced by much cheaper refurbished ones, making somebody very rich in the process.

But when we reported our findings to the directors of the maintenance division, there was obviously a bit of a problem. They were the ones getting rich from the aircraft spare parts scam. As you might have expected, within two days of our final report, we were all on a plane home (thankfully not with that airline) as the directors of the maintenance division had no intention of letting anyone spoil their lucrative criminal enterprise.

Britain is corrupt – as Mr Straw and Mr Rifkind have both helpfully confirmed. But our corruption is small beer compared to the widespread venality in most developing countries. The West clearly has some economic problems at the moment and the pundits are forever blethering on about the rise of Asia. But corruption is so endemic in most Asian countries that everything they do will always be affected by it.

Some Indian company has recently announced it will be constructing the world’s tallest luxury residential flats building in Bombay (Mumbai) at 117 floors:

worlod one tower

So, what can we expect? Substandard steel supplied by corrupt contractors and approved by corrupt building inspectors? Substandard concrete supplied by corrupt contractors and approved by corrupt building inspectors? Well, you get the picture. After all, would you fly in a passenger jet made by Indians or Pakistanis?

So, the supposed experts’ predictions of the West’s demise and the coming “Asian Century” may be a little premature. Corruption will always be Asia’s Achilles Heel.

4 comments to Fly with them? You’ve Garuda be joking!!!!

  • Joe Schmoe

    Fascinating.
    I regularly fly on TG and trust that their maintenance and spares departments are held to a higher standard,
    but would not bank on it.

    My main concerns with Asian carriers is cockpit hierarchy. In the west, a first officer will question a perceived poor decision from a Captain….not too sure about the East…..eg the Asiana crash in SFO

  • TG seem ok technically. Their only problem is that their corrupt management is leeching so much money out of the company that, until a year or so ago, they couldn’t afford to put individual seatback screens and proper entertainment systems in their planes in monkey class – more than 10 years after these were in almost all of their competitors’ planes.

  • Nick

    Scary, and also something I’ve long suspected. Prince Philip’s classic “looks like is was built by an indian” seems to suggest that this is indeed endemic. in other news – the words ‘Nigerian’ and ‘Doctor’ should never be used together! (same problem).

  • Nigerian and doctor. Yup, we had the famous incident when a Nigerian/German doctor working on a well-paid weekend shift in the UK killed the father of a doctor by giving I think 10 times the recommended dosage of some medicine. Then the son of the dead man tried suing the Nigerian doctor and instead got fined (I think) for daring to question the Nigerian doctor’s qualifications.

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