...But Outsourced Maintenance Needs More Oversight...

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

You could forgive the FAA for being confused on the outsourcing issue. While the GAO seems to be encouraging it, the other government watchdog that monitors the agency was sending a different message. Ken Mead, the Department of Transportation's Inspector General, testified before the Senate Transportation Committee that more and more airline maintenance is being outsourced and he said that means the FAA needs to step up its inspection of third-party maintenance facilities. He said outsourcing isn't the issue. "It is that maintenance, wherever it is done, requires oversight," he said. He said the FAA was warned two years ago about shortcomings with maintenance subcontractors and promised to increase inspections but has been slow to do so. Mead is particularly concerned about the increasing amount of maintenance being done in other countries. He told Congress that the FAA relies on foreign agencies to inspect the work done on U.S. planes but the reports are lacking in many respects. He said foreign inspectors didn't supply enough information and in many cases the reports weren't in English. "In a lot of cases, we couldn't make hide nor hair of them," Mead said. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the meeting that at least 80 more inspectors will be hired and that no flags have been raised about maintenance. "We do not have any data that suggests contract maintenance is any less safe," Blakey said. The Aeronautical Repair Station Association also chimed in, saying contract maintenance has always been a factor in aviation and noting that the recent increase in outsourcing has coincided with the safest period for commercial aviation ever.