Airlines have been cutting everything from pillows to staff – but what about cutting corners on the structural safety of their planes?
Well, fasten you seatbelts. Beneath the radar of the flying public, airlines execs have engaged in a widespread and worrisome cost-cutting move: outsourcing maintenance of their planes to low-wage countries. Some airlines send landing gears, engines, and other parts out-of-country for repair, while others send entire planes. This sets off safety alarms for us passengers. Not that other countries don’t have competent workers, but – get this – the airlines increasingly are using “noncertificated” maintenance shops around the world. Maybe such places are A-1 repair sites, but we don’t know, because our industry-cozy FAA has not even inspected and certified them.
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Bad enough that our government is letting such a basic safety function slip away, but maintenance is also a key industry for middle-class jobs. As a Machinist Union leader points out, “This is a technological base, an important industry base, for our country, and we’re just giving it up.” We know that CEOs are dramatically raising ticket prices, but they’re then quietly using our consumer dollars to undermine America’s middle-class future, sending our skilled jobs, technology, and maybe our safety to such eager countries as Mexico.
We can’t blame Mexicans for that, because their officials are simply on the ball, trying to lift the economic fortunes of their people. Mexico’s government, for example, will soon break ground for the National Aerospace University, which will train a sophisticated workforce for building and maintaining aircraft.
Where are our leaders? Why aren’t they doing that? Why aren’t our corporate and governmental officials investing in the American people, rather than aggressively downsizing America’s future?
“Airplane Maintenance: Maybe Not a Place to Skimp,” The New York Times, April 1, 2008.
“Mexico takes on more aircraft construction,” USA Today, April 7, 2008.