Submitted testimony from:
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association
United StatesHouse of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Aviation
Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization
February 9, 2011
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) appreciates this opportunity to provide testimony on aviation safety and the outsourcing of jobs to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. In light of the public outcry from the recent Frontline expose, “Flying Cheaper” that aired on PBS last month, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in the aviation industry. The time has come to seriously discuss how we can work to safeguard the American public from future aviation catastrophes.
Founded in 1962, The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) is a craft oriented, independent aviation union that represents aircraft maintenance technicians and related support personnel at major commercial carriers across the U.S. As the front line of defense in ensuring the flying public’s safety, AMFA is strongly committed to working towards ways to improve the standards, oversight, and accountability deficiencies in both foreign and domestic outsourcing facilities.
The Frontline piece shown on PBS last month shed a much needed spotlight on the deteriorating safety standards of the aviation industry. A decade ago, aircraft repair and maintenance work was mostly performed in-house by the airlines flying the planes. That work was performed by proud, FAA-certified AMFA members. Sadly, almost 80% of that work has now been sent outside of the hangar. Today, most major airlines outsource the bulk of heavy maintenance to lower-cost, independent operations in the U.S. and abroad. Generally, most of the mechanics in the independent, domestic facilities are not FAA-licensed. Even more alarming is the increasing amount of contract maintenance being done overseas in locations spread across 64 countries. In these facilities, less than four percent of the mechanics hold an FAA license of any kind. Foreign outsourcing facilities generally do not have the same stringent safety standards and employee testing requirements that U.S. based, in-house facilities do. In addition, outsourcing facilities within U.S. borders often “insource” employees, bringing drastically inexperienced workers from other countries into their facilities to perform maintenance more cheaply. In either case, when aircraft maintenance is farmed out to outsourcing facilities, the ratio of licensed workers performing vital work reaches dangerous levels. In many cases, literally dozens of unlicensed workers in outsourcing facilities are supervised by just one licensed worker.
Protecting the Public:
In order to protect the American flying public, AMFA believes it is absolutely vital to stop the hemorrhaging of aircraft maintenance work to outsourcing facilities. In addition, we support an increase in accountability and oversight at outsourcing facilities and the implementation of the same general rules that must be adhered to in the in-house repair facilities of major carriers.
We strongly suggest language in the FAA Reauthorization Bill that puts limits on both the percentage of aviation maintenance that can be outsourced and also the number of unlicensed workers one licensed mechanic can supervise. Furthermore, we feel it is vital that workers at outsourcing facilities be held to the exact same background checks, drug screenings, and other testing requirements of those that work at in-house facilities. Without these improvements, the flying public will continue to be put at an unacceptably high risk.