By Leisa Zigman
(KSDK) - It's the busy summer travel season and a lot of families have vacations planned. But before you fly, you should see the hidden camera video obtained by NewsChannel 5's I-Team.
The video was shot by a long-time employee at the overhaul base at Kansas City International Airport. The whistleblower did not want to be identified but did want to expose a hidden secret onboard a Boeing 767 passenger plane.
The whistle blower said, "We had to take the chairs off and that's when everybody saw mice running around on the floor and one ran down one of the mechanic's arm."
The plane arrived in Missouri April 30.
The whistleblower explained, "There's feces all along this edge right here. It's throughout the whole aircraft."
The whistle blower said workers found nests in air vents and dead mice in emergency oxygen masks. When mice would get hungry, they ate insulation and chewed through wires.
"If they shorted themselves and caused a fire, it would go through that cabin so fast, we could have lost some lives," said the whistleblower.
Several calls were made to the Federal Aviation Administration hotline asking for an investigation. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the I-Team obtained the FAA brief.
On May 5, 2006, a caller reported a mouse infestation. The complaint went on to say that mice chewed through two wires. The caller alleged American Airlines was doing nothing about eradicating the mice.
On May 10, 2006, a caller reported that mice were building nests near the oxygen generators.
The whistleblower said, "Anywhere from 900 to 1,000 (mice) could be on this aircraft."
That's the estimate exterminators gave workers but American Airlines disputes that number. In a written statement the airline admits to finding only 17 live mice.
Mel Burkhardt has been an aviation expert for more than 30 years. He's a retired pilot and current crash scene investigator.
He said mice on airplanes "involves a very severe hazard to the safety of the airplane and the people on board."
We showed Burkardt the hidden camera video.
"The potential for the catastrophic mishap is there and if you have one mouse, you have two. (If) you have two, you have a family," he said.
Burkardt said the plane should have been grounded but according to maintenance logs obtained by the I-Team that didn't happen.
On April 20th the plane was at JFK where mechanics noted a "mouse observed in the galley." The log goes on to indicate that maintenance was deferred.
The decision was made to put the plane back into service, and fly passengers across the country to Los Angeles International Airport.
That is when the whistleblower says there was another incident on April 23.
The plane went back in the air over and over until it was flown into Kansas City eleven days later.
"When you fly 100 hours and (do) not take care of the problem, you are putting the people traveling in danger," said the whistleblower.
The Federal Aviation Administration says American Airlines did nothing wrong because airlines do not have to report rodent infestations unless the rodents affect the mechanics.
American Airlines would not let us see the repairs inside the plane and would not talk to us on camera. But in a statement the company said N320 was always safe to fly and no lives were put at risk.
Burkhardt doubts this is the only plane with a rodent problem. But he also said exposing the issue is good for the airlines and for passengers.
"I guarantee now that it is known, they'll address it and within a very short period of time I think this issue will disappear," he said.
According to the FAA all insulation and oxygen masks on N320 have been replaced. The cargo bins have been removed and replaced and the wiring has been inspected.
Burkhardt said if you are flying on American Airlines N320 feel good about it. He said it's probably now the cleanest, safest airplane in the fleet.
American Airlines said N320 was an anomaly and while an occasional mouse has boarded, infestations simply don't happen.
Leisa partnered with Nichole Teich of KSHB NBC Action News in Kansas City for this report.