Repair stations are closely regulated and monitored by the FAA. The agency requires air carriers to ensure that their contract maintenance and training programs, and the contractors themselves, fully comply with federal regulations. There are approximately 4,227 domestic and 694 foreign FAA-certified repair stations.
Tough FAA Standards for "Outsourced" Maintenance
Some air carriers contract out ("outsource") aircraft maintenance. For example, it may be more efficient to have an original manufacturer perform engine overhauls, repair of components or warranty work. Airlines must meet stringent FAA requirements if they rely on contract maintenance.
Air carriers have to ensure that all contractors follow the procedures specified in the air carrier's maintenance program. Air carriers must list all contractors on a vendor list; only substantial maintenance providers have to be approved in the air carrier’s operation specifications.
FAA must approve use of any non certificated contractor. The airline must show that the provider has the capability, organization, facilities and equipment to perform the work.
Eyes on Repair Stations
Both the air carrier and the FAA inspect work done at repair stations. The air carrier conducts oversight through its Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System, which requires audits of the facilities working on the carrier's aircraft.
The FAA does at least one comprehensive, in-depth inspection every year at each repair station inside the United States. The inspection requirement comes from the National Work Program Guidelines (NPG) order issued annually, and is based on risk analysis of results from the previous year's surveillance. The NPG establishes a base level of surveillance data that should be evaluated, including areas such as facilities, maintenance processes, technical data and training programs.
FAA inspectors perform on-site visits and review air carrier audits. An FAA inspector is not required to give notice prior to an inspection. But as a practical matter, the repair station may be notified to ensure the right people are available and any necessary coordination between the repair station and remote facilities or contractors is accomplished.
FAA inspectors have comprehensive guidance for checking each of 15 safety areas. As each area is inspected, an assessment is recorded in a national database. The FAA uses the assessments to retarget resources and develop the following year's inspection program.
The inspector presents any issues found to the repair station informally during a briefing prior to leaving the facility. A formal letter of findings follows, and the FAA may start enforcement actions for violations of regulations.
Oversight of Foreign Repair Stations
Many U.S. air carriers rely on foreign repair stations outside the United States for at least some of their maintenance. These facilities are certified annually by the FAA, and a repair station may lose its certificate if it does not comply with FAA requirements.
The agency only certifies the number of foreign repair stations it can effectively monitor. Oversight is conducted by FAA inspectors assigned to International Field Offices in London, Frankfurt, Singapore, New York, Miami, Dallas and San Francisco.
Recently I read that the Business Travel Coalition, in a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-8th CA), called for support for a moratorium, to be included in the...
Part 2: Regulatory oversight of domestic vs. foreign repair stations
Outsourcing Problems . . . Again: Outside contractors to get increased FAA surveillance . . . right!
Outsourcing Problems . . . Again Outside contractors to get increased FAA surveillance . . . right! The investigations of several recent accidents have raised flags on a potential weak spot...
Chairman calls this an "appropriate time to implement a moratorium ... until the government and industry can agree on a single maintenance and security standard."