Common Sense

The week before Thanksgiving, I received a press release from Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) announcing the passage of his bipartisan “Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Disclosure act of 2019 (H.R. 5119). The press release states: 

“...[H.R.4374] would require airlines to disclose the maintenance history for their aircraft fleets, specifically the location and date an aircraft underwent heavy maintenance — the most comprehensive test for an aircraft. Airlines would also be required to submit an annual report to a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) database that tracks the maintenance history of their aircraft fleets. The database will also indicate whether maintenance was conducted in the United States or abroad; by FAA-certified mechanics or not; or by airline employees or third-party contractors.

Recent airline accidents raise serious concerns about the increasing trend of outsourcing maintenance, particularly to countries in Central America and Southeast Asia. These foreign outsourcers do not have to be FAA certified, and are not subject to the drug and alcohol testing required in the United States for mechanics. Outsourcing has also eliminated thousands of middle-class jobs in the United States and created significant safety concerns for passengers.

‘At my first hearing as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I asked the CEOs of several major airlines if their planes were maintained in the United States. Sadly, none of them knew the answer. Airline passengers have the right to expect that the planes they fly on are maintained under the highest possible safety standards by qualified mechanics,’ says Congressman Garamendi. ‘My bipartisan bill prioritizes transparency so that FAA regulators and the public know who services the planes they fly on and where the service takes place.’ 

‘I’m pleased that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed this critical legislation, and I thank Chairman DeFazio for including my bill in the committee’s larger legislative package,’ Garamendi concludes.” 

I question how this will increase safety. First of all, the FAA is well aware of the maintenance outsourcing practices at the Airlines. Second, the flying public’s flight decisions seem to be driven mostly by cost. I doubt they would change their purchasing habits based on where the aircraft are maintained. After all, the mainstream media has been reporting on the increased outsourcing trend, yet I’m not aware of any significant changes in flying trends.

Here’s an idea — how about ensuring that all foreign-based FAA certified repair stations are held to the same regulatory oversight and standards as U.S.-based repair stations? They would be subject to the same enforcement actions for non-compliance such as fines and certificate revocation.

There is another piece of legislation making its way through the House — the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act (H.R. 5119). If passed into law, the bill would require security background checks for foreign maintenance workers, impose risk-based safety and security inspections for foreign repair stations, require drug and alcohol testing for mechanics performing safety-sensitive work, require unannounced inspections by FAA aviation safety inspectors and ensure foreign mechanics and supervisors meet FAA certification standards. This would basically level the playing field for domestic and international repair stations.

Past efforts to do this have failed. From what I understand, national sovereignty trumps (no pun intended) FAA regulatory requirements.

In my mind, the common sense answer to this dilemma is simple — if you want an FAA repair station certificate, you must meet all of the regulatory requirements mandated by the FAA. If you can’t or choose not to do that, then you don’t get a repair station certificate — period!

Unfortunately, common sense doesn’t seem to be too common these days.  

Thanks for reading, and we appreciate your feedback!

Joe Escobar

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