Outsourcing Airworthiness

There is an alarming trend toward fewer and fewer FAA certificated mechanics performing aircraft maintenance.

For PAMA, the controversy over the outsourcing of airline maintenance to third-party repair stations swirls primarily around the technical certification of their maintenance workforce, not the business decision to offer or not offer a particular product or service. The safety hazard looming on the horizon is the increasing use of noncertificated "mechanic assistants," working under the supervision of an accountable manager, where certificated airframe and/or powerplant mechanics had once been used. While repair stations have always had the authority to hire and use these "assistants," there were plenty of FAA certificated A&P mechanics willing to work for the going wage when the airline industry was booming.

At the air carrier level, third-party maintenance is a safety concern because many of these repair facilities have elected to exercise their regulatory right to use a preponderance of noncertificated "mechanic assistants." Airlines, slashing budgets, are outsourcing maintenance because it seems cheaper to do so, at least in the short term. Third-party maintenance facilities, while sometimes claiming to operate more efficiently, are largely able to offer lower costs because the "going wage" is now a lot lower than what a certificated A&P will accept.

How will this business decision to outsource maintenance impact aviation safety? What about the rapid evolution of technology and materials in manufacturing? How will an efficient maintenance workforce keep up with accelerating technological change? Do the aviation community, the flying public, and our government overseers have the foresight and guts to advocate and promote an atmosphere of continuous education and lifelong learning in airworthiness? PAMA believes the industry must closely examine and respond to these basic safety questions before we can truly feel confident in the future safety of air transportation.

It is time for America to take back its leadership role in aviation maintenance and set the standard for future airworthiness. AMT

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