(AP) FBI agents are investigating small puncture holes found on two US Airways jets. The holes are similar to damage discovered last week on an aircraft in Orlando.
David Martinez, an FBI spokesman in Charlotte, said Wednesday that agents have begun interviewing people who had access to the jets in Charlotte and other cities where the aircraft had been.
The holes were discovered Monday during routine visual inspections by mechanics at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Last week, holes were found on a jet that had landed in Orlando after a layover in Charlotte.
The two jets were grounded after the damage was discovered but have been repaired and are flying again. It is unlikely that the holes posed a danger to the passengers.
David Castelveter, a US Airways spokesman, said the airline is “cooperating fully” with the FBI. He said the holes are very small punctures about the size of a pencil near the rear galley door.
In September, US Airways filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years. Management is negotiating a third round of concessions from union employees. Last week, a bankruptcy judge approved 21% pay cuts for most of the union workers.
Martinez said the airline’s financial troubles “may be a consideration” in the investigation.
“We don’t know what caused it or who did it,” Martinez said. He said it is too early for the FBI to begin searching for a disgruntled employee as a possible suspect.
“Was it an accident? Was it a criminal act? Was it something done in normal maintenance? We are trying to sort everything out,” he said.
FBI agents probably will talk to people who have access to the tarmac, including baggage handlers, pilots, mechanics, fuel providers, food suppliers and trash haulers.
“Anybody who would damage an aircraft deliberately out of spite or any other reason demands the book be thrown at him,” said Stuart Matthews, president of the Flight Safety Foundation.
Speculation about employee involvement is unwarranted, union officials said.
“It’s reckless and irresponsible for people to speculate on what may have caused the damage until the facts are known,” said Joseph Tiberi, spokesman for the union that represents mechanics and baggage handlers.