Washington, DC -- Thomas Brantley, president of Professional Airways Systems Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), today told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Aviation that FAA policy changes potentially threaten the safety of America's air travel system.
"The FAA is currently more than 400 below its own minimum staffing level for technical employees," said Brantley. "This shortage means current staff are logging more overtime and are unable to receive the ongoing training they need. Without adequate staff, the entire aviation system is at risk."
Starting in 2003, staffing levels for technical employees has continued to fall. As of February of this year, the FAA has on staff only 5,690 technical employees, the lowest number on record. PASS strongly believes that the FAA must immediately hire additional technical staff to comply with its own standard of 6,100.
The other pressing concern Brantley relayed to the committee is the FAA's abandonment of preventive system maintenance in favor of an "event-based" system, essentially a "fix on fail" approach.
"The 'fix on fail' approach is akin to waiting until your car breaks down to fix it," said Brantley. "This is a complete 180-degree shift from the preventive model that has kept our air travel system the safest in the world. It simply defies common sense."
"Event-based" maintenance means that rather than conducting regular preventive maintenance checks of equipment, the FAA chooses to wait until the equipment fails. This idea invites potentially disruptive system downtime and would cause the physical degradation of equipment and facilities vital to safe air travel. "This new philosophy not only poses a serious threat to the safety of the flying public, but is also a blatant waste of agency time and resources," said Brantley.
"We want to make sure that Congress understands the gamble the FAA is taking by making these ill-advised changes," continued Brantley. "We all support improving efficiency and effectiveness, but we believe that the FAA must reexamine its approach. PASS remains committed to working with the FAA to meet our common goals."