Airline Outsourcing Endangering Passengers, National Security, Say Aviation Mechanics, Industry Experts

Teamsters Union and the Business Travel Coalition Sponsor Summit on Risks of Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Teamsters Union and the Business Travel Coalition co-sponsored a national summit on aircraft maintenance outsourcing today. The summit drew nearly 200 participants from the aviation industry, government agencies, labor, business, and Congress from 35 states. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) gave videotaped presentations at the event.

At the summit, Greg Feith, former NTSB investigator, moderated panels in which invited speakers debated the current state of outsourcing. Feith urged the speakers to discuss possible solutions to the safety and security issues. Some of the legislative ideas that were considered include: increased frequency and depth of FAA inspections to domestic and foreign repair stations; required criminal background checks for repair station employees; mandated drug and alcohol screenings; and harmonized standards for U.S. airlines for all repair stations.

Teamster mechanics are urging Congress to impose a moratorium on any further outsourcing of airplane repairs and maintenance by the country's airlines until there are uniform maintenance standards and FAA oversight, saying they are concerned about the dangers to passenger safety and national security that the practice poses.

"Teamster aviation mechanics are worried about the non-stop rush to outsource. They see firsthand the shoddy and dangerous work that comes back from poorly qualified, badly regulated contractors," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "Mechanics tell us that they won't even let their own families fly on airlines that outsource heavily. That should be a wake-up call to Congress and the airlines."

Major U.S. domestic carriers dramatically increased outsourcing in recent years, and now spend nearly two-thirds of their maintenance dollars on contract repair stations here and abroad, including facilities in operations in China, El Salvador, Mexico, and the Philippines. Foreign repair stations are not required to have the same number of FAA-certificated mechanics, or the same security rules, as airline-owned repair facilities in the U.S.

Advocates of tighter and tougher oversight on airline outsourcing note that outsourcing was implicated in a 2003 commuter-plane crash in Charlotte, North Carolina. They also cite the 2001 arrest of an employee at a Singapore repair station that worked on U.S. planes, who was suspected of having connections to al Qaeda.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, said that the summit was the first national forum on the outsourcing controversy.

"This Summit was hugely successful in gathering input from the leading experts on this critical issue, but it is only a beginning," Mitchell said. "In the coming weeks, the Teamsters and the BTC will closely examine the draft legislative reform ideas that were introduced during the Summit, then follow up with a Customer Hearing in April to decide on final reform recommendations to Congress."

The aircraft maintenance outsourcing reform principles introduced at the conference were:

-- A single and highest maintenance standard should be emplaced for airlines' in-house facilities and domestic-U.S. and foreign repair facilities.

-- FAA oversight of domestic-U.S. and foreign repair facilities should be increased to a level that is commensurate with the volume and complexity of current outsourcing practices.

-- The fully-burdened costs of FAA inspections and audits should be borne by airlines that choose to outsource to overseas repair facilities.

-- Airlines that outsource to overseas repair facilities should hold such facilities to high environmental standards with respect to disposal of toxic wastes and other processes associated with aircraft maintenance.

-- Domestic-U.S. and foreign repair facilities should have adequate safeguards in place regarding personnel backgrounds, aircraft access and parts inventory to frustrate terrorists who might exploit an opportunity to do harm to the U.S. or other countries.

To view a web cast of the Summit, go to:

Founded in 1994, the mission of Business Travel Coalition is to bring transparency to industry and government policies and practices so that customers can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 9,000 aircraft technicians of the 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Teamsters represent 40,000 airline employees, including more than 9,000 mechanics and related at 11 airlines including Continental and UPS.

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters