PASS Warns Senate of Dangers in Outsourcing Critical Maintenance to Foreign Entities

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tom Brantley, national president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), testified today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, to address serious concerns regarding the oversight of foreign repair stations.

With the dynamics of the aviation industry constantly changing, airlines have increased their reliance on outsourced maintenance work and a growing portion of this work is being handed over to foreign repair stations. However, there is not an adequate number of FAA inspectors to properly oversee these foreign repair stations. “Inspector staffing has not kept pace with the exploding outsourcing business and nearly half of the workforce will be eligible to retire by 2010; yet, the FAA is refusing to take any steps to rectify the situation,” said Brantley.

In addition, Brantley cites that the process an FAA inspector must go through in order to gain access to a foreign repair station is so lengthy and tedious that by the time the inspector arrives at the facility, the repair station is fully aware of the visit and the element of surprise is nonexistent, rendering the inspection as nothing more than a formality.

During his testimony, Brantley explained that in lieu of addressing the inspector staffing issue, the FAA has turned to the use of Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs), which allow selected foreign countries to provide oversight on behalf of the FAA. However, Brantley highlighted the fact that there are no adequate oversight procedures in place to ensure the quality of these inspections. “Until the FAA can guarantee that inspections conducted by foreign authorities are done with identical safety standards and regulations used in this country, additional agreements with foreign authorities should not be allowed.”

Brantley went on to pinpoint that foreign repair stations are not subject to the same regulations, such as security screenings and drug and alcohol testing, that are required in the United States. “The FAA has a responsibility to maintain oversight of all aspects of aviation safety, including where and how repair work is performed. To hold foreign facilities to lesser standards not only compromises safety, it gives an unfair advantage to foreign businesses,” said Brantley.

“Oversight of foreign repair stations is in critical need of attention and improvement,” continued Brantley. “In order for our inspectors to continue to provide adequate oversight of the aviation system, the FAA must take immediate steps to increase staffing for its inspector workforce so they are able to continue to defend this country’s reputation as having the safest aviation system in the world.”

The complete testimony is available at http://www.passnational.org/.


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PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.

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