American Should Capitalize on this


Dec 21, 2002
Gov't Defends Outsourced Plane Repairs
Thursday March 29, 2:31 pm ET
By Alan Zibel, AP Business Writer
Federal Aviation Administration Defends Outsourcing of Airplane Repairs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Aviation regulators on Thursday defended U.S. airlines' use of outsourced and overseas plane maintenance shops, saying the number of fatal crashes has declined in recent years even as reliance on these services has increased.

"Although the percentage of outsourcing has never been higher, the accident rate has never been lower," Nicholas Sabatini, a top safety official at the Federal Aviation Administration told a House subcommittee. "Aviation safety is not dependent on airlines performing their own maintenance."

Sabatini also disputed perceptions that use of foreign repair stations is unsafe. Those repair stations, he said, must meet the same standards as those in the United States, or they won't be certified by the FAA.

However, the FAA was criticized by some members of Congress for not doing an adequate job of keeping tabs on repair shops, particularly overseas stations without certification from the federal agency.

"There appears to be giant loopholes in the system that oversees our maintenance," said Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo. "We can't have a system that we just think is getting safer."

The Transportation Department's inspector general, Calvin Scovel, said in a report that his department was able to identify more than 1,400 repair stations legally performing maintenance without an FAA certification, more than 100 of which were located overseas.

"The issue is not where maintenance is performed, but that maintenance requires effective oversight," Scovel said.

Major carriers' maintenance costs performed by outside companies have risen from 38 percent a decade ago to 64 percent in the first three quarters of last year, according to the inspector general's report. Over the same period, the number of fatal crashes for every 10 million flights dropped from 6 to 2, according to FAA statistics.

Basil Barimo, vice president of operations and safety at the Air Transport Association, the airlines' trade group, disputed the notion that outsourcing is "a shortcut, by which shoddy maintenance practices are tolerated."

"The U.S. airline industry's maintenance-related safety record is the best it has ever been," he said, according to a written copy of his remarks. "If there were a systemic problem with contract maintenance, the safety data would have exposed it."

While most air carriers have increased outsourcing, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines said it performs more than 90 percent of maintenance domestically.

David Campbell, an American vice president for base maintenance, said in prepared testimony that the company plans to add $175 million in revenue from doing maintenance work for other air carriers this year. AMR said Thursday it would invest up to $100 million in its maintenance group, in an effort to grow that business.