American Airlines, for example, outsourced 38 percent of its maintenance expense

RV4

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A warning to airlines
BY INA PAIVA CORDLE

The Federal Aviation Administration is not giving sufficient oversight to aircraft-repair stations as their share of airlines' maintenance work increases -- suggesting that the system's safety net is vulnerable -- says a federal audit released Thursday.

After a 16-month investigation, the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General uncovered problems at 18 -- or 86 percent -- of 21 repair stations reviewed.

Among the weaknesses: Mechanics used the wrong aircraft parts, outdated maintenance manuals and improperly adjusted tools and equipment. Three of the repair stations reviewed are in Miami, nine others are scattered around the United States, and nine are in foreign countries. The report, though, doesn't list individual stations' strengths or shortcomings.

Seven years after the ValuJet crash shone a harsh light on the use of outsourced maintenance facilities, airlines have stepped up their reliance on repair stations to between 33 percent and 79 percent of their total aircraft maintenance expense, the report showed.

Despite the increase in outsourcing, the FAA concentrates its oversight of airline maintenance on work performed at the major carriers' in-house facilities, the study found. In fact, the FAA has yet to act on the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation -- issued following its investigation of the ValuJet crash -- that the agency pay equal attention to maintenance whether its done by in-house maintenance shops or repair stations.

'While these recommendations were made over six years ago, we found that the same weaknesses in repair-station oversight prevail today,' the report said.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, however, said no data indicated that the situation posed safety problems.

The audit was concentrated on a small sample of the 4,600 domestic and 650 foreign FAA-certified repair stations. According to the FAA, about 1,742 aircraft inspectors oversee these facilities, the report said.

The 21 repair stations audited were chosen for their geographical distribution and variety of size and type of work performed, said David Barnes, spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General.

The three Miami repair stations included in the audit are Avborne Heavy Maintenance, AAR Landing Gear Services and Air Operations International.

Barnes declined to comment on the individual results of the repair stations.

'We have oversight over the FAA, and our job is to make sure the FAA is doing its job,' he said.

Representatives of the Miami stations said they were in full compliance with the FAA.

'Our reliability rate and quality standards are one of the highest in the industry,' said Carolina Jones, vice president of marketing for Avborne Heavy Maintenance, whose customers include AirTran (the former ValuJet), United Parcel Service and Airborne Express.

'We're in good standing with the FAA,' said Alex Aladro, manager of quality assurance for AAR Landing Gear Services, which has done work for Southwest, American, United, Delta and other airlines.

'Our company is in perfect compliance with all FAA regulations,' said Air Operations International Vice President Elias Rodríguez, who declined to disclose the names of his airline clients.

The investigation was the first by the OIG on repair stations since 1994. Since then, air carriers have increased their reliance on outsourced maintenance to cut back on expenses, the report found. In 1996, major air carriers spent $1.5 billion -- 37 percent of their total maintenance costs -- for outsourced aircraft maintenance. In 2002, the major carriers outsourced $2.5 billion, or 47 percent of their total maintenance costs.

American Airlines, for example, outsourced 38 percent of its maintenance expense, or $465.2 million, last year, but nearly half of that went to a joint venture between American and Rolls-Royce. The airline has strict auditing of outside vendors, spokesman John Hotard said.

'If we can be competitive, we prefer to do it in house,' he said.

The OIG's audit revealed that at seven foreign and eight domestic repair stations -- or 71 percent -- mechanics used the wrong parts or parts that could not be traced to their manufacturers and equipment as well as tools not properly calibrated.

'These discrepancies went undetected by FAA surveillance because of the weaknesses in FAA's oversight structure and the process FAA inspectors used during repair station inspections,' the report noted.

In its report on the ValuJet crash, the NTSB had cited the FAA's lack of oversight of the airline and ValuJet's failure to oversee its maintenance contractor, SabreTech, which is no longer in business. SabreTech employees in Miami failed to properly prepare and package volatile oxygen generators, which ignited the fire that consumed the DC-9, killing all 110 aboard, the board found.

'The entire system that is there to protect the public failed,' former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said at the time. ``The ValuJet accident resulted from failures up and down the line, from federal regulators to airline executives, from the boardroom to workers on the shop-room floor.'

Since 1996, three other tragedies -- a Continental Express crash in 1998, a Continental Airlines crash in 1998 and an Emery Worldwide crash in 2000 -- have been linked to aircraft-repair stations.

The audit further reveals that the FAA is often unable to determine whether repair stations in France, Germany and Ireland meet FAA standards. The FAA has agreements with civil aviation authorities in those countries to inspect and certify the 138 repair stations there on its behalf.

While saying the sample size may have been too small to draw conclusions, the FAA agreed to revamp its procedures.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/6277089.htm
 

atabuy

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Oct 13, 2002
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American Airlines, for example, outsourced 38 percent of its maintenance expense, or $465.2 million, last year, but nearly half of that went to a joint venture between American and Rolls-Royce. The airline has strict auditing of outside vendors, spokesman John Hotard said.

''If we can be competitive, we prefer to do it in house,'' he said."

Don''t you think the statement above answers the companies reasoning to outsource.
They are saying their mechanics have pushed too far on wages and there is competition which can do the job cheaper.

What gets me about the thinking here is no one figures out a way to be more valuable to the company and save this work. They all think it is a right to be paid higher wages with bad work ethics and attitudes.
When I say this I refer to anyone that makes statments like full pay until the last day, or wanting to see their employer suffer bk.
I watched it first hand at Ual, so I know of what I speak.

Although there are many highly skilled mechanics with good attitudes, the few rotten apples make it seem like most are not deserving of jobs.
The rotten attitude of some employees made it impossible for Ual to stay out of bk. I speak here of all employees. Not just mechanics.

Now that people are seeing what layoffs and work rule changes are doing to them, I am sure they might be a little sorry for their stupidity of pushing the company into BK. For the ones who can''t see reality, I am sure they blame the company and feel they were just a pawn in the game.
The problem seems to be; no one realized how good they had it.
 

Hopeful

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Dec 21, 2002
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I think the passengers are the ones who should be lobbying Congress to stop the practice of outsourcing, especially overseas. They should at least expect the government to rigidly enforce these third party maintenance facilities.

But then again, the passengers are the ones who demand low fares by holding the airlines hostage with their business.

As much as I hate to admit it, American is right when saying the passenger only cares about low fares. Because if they cared as much about safety as they do the price of their ticket, no one would have continued to fly Valujet, now AirTran, after that fatal accident. They only seem to care about an accident when someone in their family is killed in air disaster and they have their lawyers sue the airlines for poor maintenance practices.

Then and only then does the passenger care about safety.
 

MCI transplant

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Atabuy---- Have you ever heard the staement "Cheapest isn''t always best!", or "You get what you pay for"? As you should know,whenever you outsource anything, there are two things you can count on! One, your never no know what condition you''ll get back your product! Two, you can never know when, or if that product will return!
 

Buck

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But if you accomplish the work in house at the same wages as outsoucring vendors what is the point. Workers join the union to better themselves, not to work for sub standard wages in their field while their coworkers were at one time making top wages. The TWU has once again lowered the standard of the aircraft mechanic. Keeping everyone employed at the cost of wages and benefits and now lowering the wages and benefits of those at the top also.
The higher the OSM wages become, the more the company will force the TWU into more concessions or to lower the top wages. Thanks for the help TWU......
 

j7915

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Sep 7, 2002
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----------------
On 7/11/2003 5:27:23 AM RV4 wrote:


A warning to airlines

BY INA PAIVA CORDLE


The Federal Aviation Administration is not giving sufficient oversight to aircraft-repair stations as their share of airlines'' maintenance work increases -- suggesting that the system''s safety net is vulnerable -- says a federal audit released Thursday.

>

American Airlines, for example, outsourced 38 percent of its maintenance expense, or $465.2 million, last year, but nearly half of that went to a joint venture between American and Rolls-Royce. The airline has strict auditing of outside vendors, spokesman John Hotard said.



''If we can be competitive, we prefer to do it in house,'' he said.

>



http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/6277089.htm

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So even if AA employees on the AA payscale do the work it is considered outsourcing? The partnership with RR allows AA to cut the overhead by doing other folks engines, right? Maybe RR should take over the entire facility with employees.
 

atabuy

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Oct 13, 2002
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----------------
On 7/11/2003 1:26:09 PM Buck wrote:

But if you accomplish the work in house at the same wages as outsoucring vendors what is the point. Workers join the union to better themselves, not to work for sub standard wages in their field while their coworkers were at one time making top wages. The TWU has once again lowered the standard of the aircraft mechanic. Keeping everyone employed at the cost of wages and benefits and now lowering the wages and benefits of those at the top also.

The higher the OSM wages become, the more the company will force the TWU into more concessions or to lower the top wages. Thanks for the help TWU......

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Buck,
New employees have to join the union when they are hired on. They have a choice to vote in another union.
The problem with unions is it completely disregards skills different workers have and lumps all together into one average worker.

I know that unions were needed to offset greedy owners, and even more so with public companies, but these people who are responsible for counting the beans look at bottom line only.
In a perfect world things would mesh and everyone would be happy.

Look at some of the wars that were fought. Generals were happy if a battle would only have 45% casualties. They thought that would be a success for them.
Do you really think bean counters look at safety over the bottom line. I doubt it. The market wants cheap fares, even if it kills them.

The law of average says something will happen and an aircraft will crash. People still fly and hope the law of average is happening somewhere else.

Everytime you get in a car, you might be a statistic. Someone is.

I doubt any one will get much sympathy about contracting out from the flying public, when it reduces their price for a ticket.
This is intended as reality and not written to imflame.
Good luck.
 

Buck

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Aug 20, 2002
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----------------
On 7/12/2003 8:01:10 AM atabuy wrote:


----------------
On 7/11/2003 1:26:09 PM Buck wrote:

But if you accomplish the work in house at the same wages as outsoucring vendors what is the point. Workers join the union to better themselves, not to work for sub standard wages in their field while their coworkers were at one time making top wages. The TWU has once again lowered the standard of the aircraft mechanic. Keeping everyone employed at the cost of wages and benefits and now lowering the wages and benefits of those at the top also.

The higher the OSM wages become, the more the company will force the TWU into more concessions or to lower the top wages. Thanks for the help TWU......

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Buck,
New employees have to join the union when they are hired on. They have a choice to vote in another union.
The problem with unions is it completely disregards skills different workers have and lumps all together into one average worker.

I know that unions were needed to offset greedy owners, and even more so with public companies, but these people who are responsible for counting the beans look at bottom line only.
In a perfect world things would mesh and everyone would be happy.

Look at some of the wars that were fought. Generals were happy if a battle would only have 45% casualties. They thought that would be a success for them.
Do you really think bean counters look at safety over the bottom line. I doubt it. The market wants cheap fares, even if it kills them.

The law of average says something will happen and an aircraft will crash. People still fly and hope the law of average is happening somewhere else.

Everytime you get in a car, you might be a statistic. Someone is.

I doubt any one will get much sympathy about contracting out from the flying public, when it reduces their price for a ticket.
This is intended as reality and not written to imflame.
Good luck.



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Yes they have to join the existing union and they do have a choice to replace them.
That disregard for the skills of a given workgroup is exactly wht I am advocating replacing the TWU, an industrial catchall union, with the AMFA, a craft union.