“Over the past decade, nearly all large US airlines have shifted heavy maintenance work on their airplanes to repair shops thousands of miles away, in developing countries, where the mechanics who take the planes apart (completely) and put them back together (or almost) may not even be able to read or speak English. US Airways and Southwest fly planes to a maintenance facility in El Salvador. Delta sends planes to Mexico. United uses a shop in China. American still does much of its most intensive maintenance in-house in the US, but that is likely to change in the aftermath of the company’s merger with US Airways.”

“According to regulations, in order to receive FAA certification as a mechanic, a worker needs to be able to “read, speak, write, and comprehend spoken English.” Most of the mechanics in El Salvador and some other developing countries who take apart the big jets and then put them back together are unable to meet this standard. At Aeroman’s El Salvador facility, only one mechanic out of eight is FAA-certified. At a major overhaul base used by United Airlines in China, the ratio is one FAA-certified mechanic for every 31 non-certified mechanics.”

“There are 731 foreign repair shops certified by the FAA around the globe. How qualified are the mechanics in these hundreds of places? It’s very hard to check. In the past, when heavy maintenance was performed on United’s planes at a huge hangar at San Francisco International Airport, a government inspector could easily drive a few minutes from an office in the Bay Area to make a surprise inspection. Today that maintenance work is increasingly done overseas and the inspectors responsible for checking it are based thousands of miles away.”

 

by James Steele
Vanity Fair Magazine
December, 2015

READ  the full article at Vanity Fair Magazine website

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