PBS Frontline journalist Miles O’Brien continued his look at the price of airline industry cost cutting by examining outsourced maintenance operations for commercial aircraft. The piece, which only runs 18 minutes, begins at a show I attended last year, MRO Americas in Phoenix, Arizona and goes on to investigate ST Aerospace’s Mobile, Alabama facility where workers allege they are pressured to sign off on non-completed maintenance jobs.
What this is is an economics issue. When these bad repairs are caught, the part must be repaired/replaced on site (so the flight is delayed) or at a repair facility (so the passengers need to be put on another airplane). This ends up costing more than the original botched repair, plus the cost of not efficiently making profit from that planeload of passengers.
But, if the money consistently saved by sending most jets to cheaper MROs is greater than the money occasionally spent in the consequences of the improperly-done repairs, then hey, it’s worth it. Especially if the airlines trust that [the protective layers] will be enough to keep the repairs from causing an accident, and that this system of double-checks is all that the FAA can reasonably require.