WASHINGTON, DC -- With its recent announcement, Delta joins the ranks of United, Northwest, Alaska, and US Airways as the latest airline to outsource heavy maintenance work -- a trend that raises serious concerns for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS, AFL-CIO), the union representing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors charged with oversight of outsourced work.
Atlanta-based Delta intends to partner with Air Canada Technical Services of Vancouver to conduct aircraft maintenance. Since 1998, the number of foreign repair stations that do work for American carriers has risen over 325 percent. This trend is indubitably raising concerns with those responsible for assuring the safety of our airlines. The uncontrolled increase far outstrips the FAA's ability to increase surveillance, let alone stay on top of current workload.
PASS is concerned that insufficient staffing and lack of adequate oversight of outsourced work will substantially hinder the ability of FAA inspectors, already stretched to capacity, to certify the safety of maintenance done in foreign countries.
"We simply do not have the capability to provide oversight of contracted workers and outsourced work," said Linda Goodrich, PASS Region IV vice president. Without hiring any inspectors in 2005, the FAA will lose roughly 257 or 10 percent of field inspectors through attrition. The addition of only 97 in 2006 means a net loss of about 200 inspectors. "This is not the time to cut back on oversight by the federal government. The FAA needs to significantly boost its inspector workforce in order to meet the demands of the aviation industry," said Goodrich.
"Delta is just another example of how the industry, like the FAA, are looking for a cheaper way of sustaining themselves," continued Goodrich. "The ongoing trend for airlines to sustain themselves financially in a competitive market combined with dwindling FAA inspector staff is like playing Russian roulette with the public's safety. We cannot be expected to do more with less."
PASS represents more than 12,000 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 web site at wwwpassnational.org.