Outsourcing Maintenance

The Business of Airline Repairs

NPR News is running a wonderfully informative special series this week on the outsourcing of airplane maintenance.  With the U.S. airline industry struggling financially in the post-9/11/01 world, this has been a trend for some time.  NADA/F has been an outspoken opponent of outsourcing this crucial work.  But this series calls attention to a newer shift.  Not only is maintenance going outside the airlines, but more recently, outside the U.S.

FAA inspects and approves these facilities, but FAA does not require airlines to report exactly which of these repair stations they actually use (via NPR).  So the stories focus a bit on federal oversight, which is of concern.  But I hope it goes without saying that the airlines themselves have a more difficult time monitoring the work done to their equipment when the work isn’t done in their proximity.  Their oversight is just as, if not more, important.  Today’s segment identifies some mistakes with US Airways planes repaired in El Salvador.

Based on the volume of comments I’ve seen so far on the NPR website and on Facebook, I understand that this is resonating with listeners and readers.  But, I suggest taking further action if this bothers you.  Contact your representation in Congress.  Think twice about which airlines you support with ticket (or stock) purchase.  The public and airline employees can make their dissatisfaction known.  Safety should not be compromised. 

UPDATE!  Part three of the series has aired on All Things Considered.  I was happy they could end on a positive note and the example of American Airlines.  The airline is establishing a new model for managment/labor relations and centralizing maintenance and repairs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  They believe it can be cost-effective, but they are asking that international facilities be subject to the same FAA scrutiny that they are.  Sounds good, AA!

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