July 14, 2009

McCaskill Pushes for Increased Safety of Airline Maintenance in FAA Reauthorization

Requests Commerce Committee include language on foreign repairs stations in upcoming bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of her ongoing fight to strengthen security and safety at overseas aircraft repair stations, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is working to include language to address the problems associated with outsourcing airline maintenance to foreign repair stations in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2009.  Friday, McCaskill sent a letter urging her colleagues on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to include language from her legislation, the SAFE Air Act, in the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill, which is expected to be introduced by the committee this week and will set funding and policy guidelines for the FAA.
 
“Not only does work performed at these foreign repair stations cost American jobs, but there’s a very real threat to our security in some cases,” McCaskill said. “Frankly, we can’t close these loopholes fast enough.”    
 
McCaskill’s legislation seeks to resolve a number of safety and security issues at foreign repair stations that perform maintenance on domestic aircraft. The measure would increase oversight, require that all maintenance be done at locations certified by the FAA, and require that work is done in compliance with FAA drug and alcohol rules.
 
Reports from the DOT IG have shown that a large percentage of aircraft maintenance is being done overseas, and that number has increased since 2005. Airlines are outsourcing both scheduled and critical maintenance – far beyond simple oil changes or tire-pressure checks – to overseas repair facilities, including uncertified locations.  Major carriers are now performing 27 percent of their heavy maintenance overseas. 
 
In addition to the safety concerns regarding maintenance performed at uncertified stations, there are also security concerns.  A 2003 DOT IG report revealed serious breaches of security, including an al Qaeda member found working at a repair station in Singapore.  The report discovered easy access to facilities by outsiders and found that there was no oversight of employee background checks and alcohol and drug testing supposedly performed by the airlines.
 
McCaskill wrote in her letter to the Senate Commerce Committee: “As you know, the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation has identified numerous gaps in the effectiveness of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of foreign repair stations and foreign repair station security, even as more air carriers are performing maintenance overseas. I recently reintroduced the SAFE Air Act, designed to increase oversight of the safety and security of maintenance work performed on commercial airlines …I ask that you include my bill in the FAA reauthorization.”
 
McCaskill’s letter to the committee outlining the ways her bill would increase safety and security at foreign repair stations and asking that it be included in the FAA’s reauthorization this year is available here.