PBS Segment about aircraft maintenance

Here’s a link to the segment.

It pretty much states that airlines are bidding maintenance to the lowest bidder and that company may employ people who have no clue what they are doing, how to read English, and have no background check.  Apparently all airplane parts are supposed to be traceable but at least one company installs parts without the proper paperwork and tracking numbers.

The airlines say that they are in the business of flying passengers, not maintaining aircraft.  To them it makes more sense to outsource and that may be true in many instances.  Someone who knows how to maintain a Boeing 757 I’m assuming could maintain the plane regardless of the operating carrier.  The problem is when the company solely looks at the bottom line.  That is an issue in any industry, it’s not unique to airlines.  I’m surprised airlines would put their name on something that could be unsafe.  The whole point of outsourcing should be competition. If an airline has doubts about the quality of the company they are using, they should find another company.  It doesn’t appear that there is any shortage of vendors.

I tend to prefer free market solutions and I think outsourced maintenance can be the same, if not better than in-house maintenance.  The key is keeping up with the vendors and changing if needed.  I’m sure many of the options cost less than in-house operations so it’s not likely that they would pay more with anyone except the lowest bidder.

If you claim to be in the business of transporting passengers, it is in your best interest to make sure they get to point B.  Shoddy maintenance can cost more in the long run.


  1. After watching that show, I was pretty shocked. Makes you wonder about the aircraft we fly so often! 😮

  2. The problem isn’t necessarily outsourcing itself, but the problem is this “lowest bidder” nonsense. As much as I distrust airline executives, making short-sighted decisions isn’t the exclusive domain of that industry.

    The famed quality guru Dr. W. Edwards Deming was preaching about not awarding business on price alone, back in the 1980s, but American businesses mainly haven’t heard the message.

    As a frequent flyer, I’m afraid that the airlines being cheap is a disaster waiting to happen. And we can’t trust the FAA since their job is both regulation AND promotion of the aviation industry.

    1. I’m not in the biz, but to me outsourcing could deliver a better product, especially if each plane type can contract out separately because you could get people who just fix 1 plane. I used to take my Nissan to any old person, but now that I have an Audi I need to go to someone who knows what they are doing because I have problems after the other people. I had a leak in my vacuum hose. Took the car to firestone and told them the symptoms. They sold me new brakes. Took my car to an audi/vw specialist for an unrelated issue and they discovered my leak and fixed it. It cost me less than taking my car to the dealer and the people knew what they were doing.
      I guess some of that logic carries over to planes so if boeings can go to boeing specialists and airbuses to airbus specialists service would be better and cheaper than in house, but if you contract everything out to the embraer guy then what’s the point? I’m not taking my audi to a kia specialist.

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