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Vandal Damages 4 Jets at Douglas Plant

Times Staff Writer

McDonnell Douglas said Wednesday that four MD-80 jetliners at its Long Beach plant were hit by a vandal, who damaged control systems, wires and a windshield.

In response to the incident, in which employees are presumed responsible, Douglas Aircraft has ordered a significant increase in security on the flight ramp where the vandalism occurred, according to company spokesman Don Hanson.

“It has everybody outraged,” Hanson said. “I don’t know why anybody would do this.”

An employee who works on the aircraft delivery ramp said in an interview that the damage was first discovered on a Delta Airlines jet last Thursday, but that it was fairly minor. The following day, additional damage was discovered that seemed to confirm that the acts were deliberate.

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The planes involved were being prepared for delivery to airlines.

“It seemed to have been done by somebody who wanted it to be found,” the worker said. “You didn’t have to look hard to see it. It seems like they were trying to make a point or get a message across.”

Hanson said the damage was not major, but he could not offer a dollar estimate. He added that it did not appear that the vandal had intentionally sought to cause very high cost damage.

The employee, who asked not to be identified, agreed, saying that while the vandal had cut a few wires, he or she made the cuts in an area where they were plainly visible.

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“If they had gone down into the wire bundles and disconnected or cut the lines going into the black boxes, we could still be chasing wires today,” he said.

The incident could not have occurred at a worse time for Douglas. The company is behind schedule on its MD-80 deliveries and the additional security is slowing up activity on the delivery ramp, the employee said.

The additional security measures include requiring employees to work in pairs inside the airplane and sign log-in sheets for entering or exiting the airplane.

As for a motive, the employee said it was unclear why vandalism occurred. But he noted that the incident coincided with a recent completion among flight ramp personnel of a reorganization.

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The reorganization, which affects every manager and supervisor at Douglas, is eliminating several layers of management and forcing every manager to requalify for his or her job.


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