We watch Democracy Now! on Link TV every morning via our satellite server. Arriving a few minutes early to the station yesterday, I quickly became absorbed in a program revealing the outsourcing of commercial aviation's jet liner fleet's maintenance.
Maybe it was the fact my wife and I plan to fly to Oregon this summer that this program caught my attention. To get from where we live to Portland, America West seems to be the airline with the best route and schedules from here to there.
Well, in the new global economy which the program labeled "the rush to the bottom", I wasn't really surprised to learn aircraft maintenance by the major airlines is being exported to such places as El Salvador and China. And just how much business does that amount to? Oh, the percentage of maintenance done overseas by Southwest, said the program, amounts to 72%; Continental Airlines, 73%; America West, a whopping 80%!
While airline mechanics in the U.S. can make as much as $38/hour, their counterparts in El Salvador can make as much as $12,000/year. Training of these mechanics was also brought into question and much of the training material used, they noted, is from manuals, all in English, which most El Salvadoran flight mechanics don't speak. But there was some comfort offered when the program noted these training manuals also come with pictures!
The program also highlighted a couple of aircraft accidents due to improper maintenance. In one, forturnately, there were no casualties during the crash landing. In the other, unfortunately, their were no survivors.
Now it's the FAA's responsibility to inspect these maintenance facilities to see they are adhering to strict safety standards. But with approximately 5,000 facilities to stay on top of, it's a task that agency simply isn't really up to handling. Last year's federal budget cut 300 FAA inspector's jobs. That was their sacrifice, I suppose, to redirect those monies to Iraq where they can be employed destroying lives and shit. Hopefully, not at the sacrifice of yours next time you fly.