Washington, DC – Tom Brantley, national president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), testified today before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Aviation, to address FAA oversight of outsourced air carrier maintenance.
"In recent years, the overall dynamic of the aviation industry has experienced dramatic changes," said Brantley. According to the Department of Transportation Inspector General, use of outsourced repair stations has grown to 62 percent of air carriers’ maintenance costs in 2005. "PASS and the inspector workforce we represent have serious safety concerns regarding this escalating trend and the FAA’s ability to oversee the outsourced work," said Brantley.
Of primary importance to protecting aviation safety is ensuring that there is an adequate number of inspectors in place to oversee the outsourced work. Yet, a staffing crisis is looming with nearly half of this workforce eligible to retire by 2010. A recent study released by the National Academy of Sciences called attention not only to insufficient inspector staffing but also to the FAA’s lack of a viable inspector staffing model. PASS believes that it is critical that the FAA develop a staffing model to determine the correct number of inspectors in position to accomplish the responsibilities of the job.
Brantley also expressed concern that instead of increasing inspector staffing, the FAA was moving toward a data-driven approach for determining risk, which would diminish the critical role inspectors play in the oversight process. “There is no argument against the importance of raising staffing levels for the inspector workforce, talented and skilled federal employees who are trained to hear and see things that are not quantifiable through any type of database,” said Brantley.
Brantley also discussed additional problems related to insufficient oversight of outsourced maintenance at domestic and foreign repair stations, including the repair station practice of subcontracting out maintenance work to additional facilities, many of which are not certificated by the FAA and therefore not subject to direct inspector oversight. "Despite the fact that non-certificated facilities are performing safety-critical work, FAA oversight is practically nonexistent," said Brantley. "This practice cannot continue without a significant increase in risk to aviation safety.
"Oversight of outsourced maintenance is in critical need of attention and improvement," continued Brantley. "In order for our inspectors to continue to provide adequate oversight for the aviation system, the FAA must take immediate steps to increase staffing and funding for its inspector workforce so they are able to continue to defend this country’s reputation as having the safest and most efficient aviation system in the world," said Brantley.
PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org