Airlines Outsource Repairs at Greater Rate

Associated Press
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nine major U.S. airlines are farming out aircraft maintenance at twice the rate of four years ago and hire outside contractors for more than 70 percent of major work, the Transportation Department's inspector general says. Contractors overseas handled one-quarter of the outsourced maintenance.

Investigators said the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to closely track how much maintenance is outsourced and where it is performed.

The airlines examined were AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. The report did not include American Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, because it handles most maintenance in-house.

The FAA relies heavily on the airlines and the repair facilities to ensure outsourced maintenance meets the air safety standards and requirements of the individual airlines.

The shift to outsource maintenance work from in-house mechanics and engineers stems from airlines' effort to lower costs, the report said.

The FAA agreed it needs to do more. "We actually concur with all the inspector general's recommendations," spokesman Les Dorr said. "We have procedures in place that already address some of the recommendations, and we have some projects in progress that address others."

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