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Tulsa: Outsourced airline repairs draw criticism from group

BY D.R. STEWARD - Tulsa World Modified: February 3, 2009 at 7:36 am •  Published: February 3, 2009
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photo - In this 2005 photo, American Airlines workers are shown at a maintenance facility near Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. American Airlines performs 85 percent of its maintenance work in-house.Ap PHOTO
In this 2005 photo, American Airlines workers are shown at a maintenance facility near Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. American Airlines performs 85 percent of its maintenance work in-house.Ap PHOTO
Third-party aircraft maintenance is increasing in a tough economy but a federal investigation has found outsourced airline maintenance programs plagued with lacking oversight and documentation by carriers and federal agencies, officials say.

In the wake of the Federal Aviation Administration’s second critical Inspector General audit of airline maintenance outsourcing in the past five years, a business travel organization is calling for a moratorium on aircraft maintenance outsourcing until standards can be established to govern the practice. In a letter to Congress last week, the Business Travel Coalition called for support for a moratorium to be included in the national economic stimulus bill.

"We don’t have a single standard,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which was founded in 1994 in Radnor, Pa. "I represent businesses that outsource all the time. We’re asking for a single standard for maintenance and security. FAA standards differ, depending on whether the (maintenance) facility is the airline’s or operated by a third party or foreign repair station.”

Who is outsourcing?
The 2008 audit found nine major airlines — not including American Airlines, which performs 85 percent of its aircraft maintenance in-house — outsource 71 percent of their heavy airframe maintenance checks to third-party repair stations, up from 34 percent in 2003.