Former American Airlines chief Robert Crandall is calling on US lawmakers to take a more protectionist stance in addressing the increasing amount of aircraft maintenance work being farmed out to foreign repair stations.
If US airlines "send their aircraft to China for maintenance" to lower air fares and that "costs us 100,000 blue collar maintenance jobs, is that an appropriate trade-off", asked Crandall during a speech last week at the ISTAT conference in Phoenix.
Speaking to ATI on the sidelines of the conference, Crandall said an associated "problem" is the FAA's current oversight of overseas maintenance shops.
Crandall has been outspoken about this issue in the past, supporting an effort by the Business Travel Coalition and the Teamsters union to crack down on US carriers' increased outsourcing of work to foreign repair stations.
The Teamsters argue that foreign repair stations are not subject to the same high FAA regulations that air carriers are. "While mechanics employed by US carriers are required to hold an FAA license to fix an aircraft, foreign workers are not. There are no regulations that make background checks, or drug and alcohol screenings, mandatory for workers at foreign repair stations," says the union in an update to members.
"This situation represents a clear risk to both passenger safety and national security. Until the FAA can negotiate and enforce a single high regulatory standard that governs all repair facilities working on US aircraft worldwide, Congress should impose a moratorium on further foreign outsourcing."
Current FAA Reauthorization draft legislation would increase the FAA's oversight of overseas maintenance shops. However, the European Union (EU) has warned the White House that it risks jeopardizing the June 2008 EU-US Aviation Safety Agreement if this legislation is passed.
"The FAA Reauthorization bill in its current version requires that maintenance organizations outside the US should be inspected by the FAA twice a year. This provision contradicts the EU-US Aviation Safety Agreement and would impede its implementation," says EU ambassador to the US John Bruton.