Aircraft Accidents and Repair Stations

The FAA is under the microscope, yet again, as Congressmen who understand absolutely nothing about the aviation industry criticize them for their oversight … oversights. According to an article by US News and World Report’s Joan Lowy, http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2016-07-28/faa-safety-inspectors-unable-to-make-surprise-inspections an Oregon Democratic Congressman and a government watchdog group are disapproving of the FAA’s oversight of foreign repair stations (FRS), which is no surprise.
FRS service domestic airlines while they are covering foreign routes. Since the carbon footprint – not to mention the costs – of flying the aircraft back to the states for scheduled maintenance exceeds the costs of repairing the airliner overseas, the airlines enter agreements with these FRS to perform the scheduled maintenance. This annoys American maintenance unions to no end, but is one of the things airlines have to do to keep costs down.
The FAA has to warn these FRS before making spot inspections; this amounts to the FRS providing the FAA with a brighter picture of what may be happening. Also the FAA has to keep within a tight budget, allotting scarce budget money to these trips to foreign countries while also entertaining oversight over the United States’ 4030 domestic repair stations – and that’s not counting airlines, air taxis, general aviation, and other less important operators like air ambulances (yes, I’m being sarcastic). And then there is the big drain on FAA budgeting this year: Unmanned Aerial Systems rule writing.
I worked for an airline that employed several FRS; I used to take possession of an FRS-worked aircraft upon return to our hub following scheduled maintenance. On one instance the wrong flight control was installed – the part number was not even close and had to be replaced. In another instance the wiring from the cockpit to the wing was gone. Let me clarify; it wasn’t ‘damaged’ gone, it was ‘GONE’ gone, as in not there. The aircraft entered this maintenance with the wiring installed, but somehow the wiring was not there upon return.
This is a very … serious … issue! While Congress people play media politics, aircraft are not receiving proper surveillance. The legislators need to focus on the problem and not their image on the internet.

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