Last week, NPR ran a three-part story on U.S. airlines sending airplane maintenance work - formerly a high-paying, unionized domestic profession - offshore, particularly to Central America and Asia. The lead story, To Cut Costs, Airlines Send Repairs Abroad
, summarizes much of the relevant information, but the entire three parts are worth a read. Also note that this is not the first time
that this issue has made headlines in recent years.
At issue here are both the offshoring of quality jobs and the problems with regulating safety under today's trade model. Some of the money quotes from the first NPR story regarding the latter:
"The FAA does not require airlines to report exactly where they send their aircraft for which kinds of repairs. So, FAA inspectors are not sure which of the roughly 700 foreign repair shops they should inspect... The FAA's inspectors didn't even show up at some foreign repair stations to monitor their work for as long as three to five years."
The second story in the series
details some of the questionable practices at one Salvadoran repair operation, Aeroman:
...[Aeroman] mechanics say managers keep pressuring them to fix the planes faster. For instance, if there's rust on a metal beam, but it's just a little over tolerance, "the supervisor says, 'Oh, just leave it like that,'" the mechanic says, through an interpreter. "'There's no need to repair it.'" [...] Another mechanic ticked off other problems at Aeroman. Some employees don't store glues at the required temperatures, he says. That means the glues could fail — which potentially means that parts of the airplane could fall apart... And this mechanic says some workers can't even read the airlines' repair manuals. The manuals are written in English, but some mechanics at Aeroman can't read English — including him.