Alaska Airlines mechanic says company falsified records

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) -- A former Alaska Airlines mechanic alleges that the company falsified maintenance records, pushed him to work faster and ridiculed his requests for manuals.

Mohammad Reza Zendehnam, who worked at the company's maintenance station in Oakland, Calif., is asking a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco to let him add those accusations to a wrongful termination lawsuit that he filed a year ago on a claim of ethnic bias.

The amended action also seeks to invoke the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, entailing greater damages if he proves Seattle-based Alaska engaged in a pattern of criminal behavior.

The action reflects ''opportunism and a desperate hope to cash in'' following the crash of Alaska Flight 261 on Jan. 31 off the Southern California coast, company Vice President Louis G. Cancelmi said Thursday.

Zendehnam, 47, an Air Force veteran who previously worked as a United Airlines mechanic for 10 years, said he was told to rush even when he believed a plane needed more work and claimed he was threatened with firing unless he took less time on routine repairs.

He said he was assigned to work on MD-80-series planes without training, although his experience was on Boeing 727s, 737s and 757s, and was mocked when he requested repair manuals.

Without giving specifics, he also said unairworthy planes were released for flight and unqualified mechanics were allowed to work on MD-80s.

Some similar accusations were made last month by 64 Alaska Airlines mechanics at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, who wrote company executives that they had been ''pressured, threatened and intimidated'' to cut corners.

After less than five months with Alaska Airlines, Zendehnam was fired in October 1997.

Zendehnam, who is of Iranian extraction, contends two mechanics in Oakland repeatedly subjected him to ethnic slurs. Cancelmi said 53 percent of the mechanics at the Oakland hangar are people of color.

Zendehnam's discrimination claim was rejected in a California state administrative decision in late 1998, partly because a co-worker said that ''despite (the co-worker's) willingness to answer your constant questions about how to perform each function, you were exceedingly slow.''

The move to amend the lawsuit reflects developments since the crash in which 88 people died Jan. 31, said Jonathan Preston, Zendehnam's lawyer.

''Now there are other witnesses (who have) come forward,'' Preston said. ''There are mechanics talking. I've got a case with mechanics who can back my client up.''

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