Airlines' repair work often done under radar

The nation's airlines have assigned important maintenance tasks to unlicensed repair shops that aren't inspected by federal regulators, a government watchdog agency found. Struggling to cut costs, U.S. airlines now contract out more than half of...


Airline training for the mechanics of such shops ranged from a one-hour video to 11 hours of video and classroom training, the report stated. An unidentified carrier mailed a workbook to each noncertified facility and told the mechanics to read the information and fax back a signed form indicating they'd completed the training, the study said.

Mead recommended that the FAA identify noncertified shops that perform critical maintenance work, and determine whether it should limit the type of work those facilities can do. The FAA should increase its oversight of such shops if it chooses not to limit the work they can do, Mead concluded.

The FAA said the Inspector General's report failed to make clear that work at noncertified facilities is done by federally certified mechanics who must pass tests and meet experience requirements.

The FAA will evaluate Mead's recommendations, and continue to help airlines improve their safety programs, agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said. She noted that new rules will create FAA-approved training programs for all airline mechanics.

"We'll work with air carriers to ensure they maintain good surveillance of the mechanics who work for them," Brown said.

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