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Outsourcing Severely Compromises Airline Safety, Say Industry Insiders

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One senior mechanic says he "won't fly on an American Airlines' 757 and will not allow [his] family to, either."

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"Thing is, that event will be an anomaly on the chart," he says. "So, it'll take another, and another, and another."

Smoking Holes in the Ground

The stories about lax standards at outside maintenance vendors (like TIMCO, which had five aircraft mechanics arrested by federal agents during an illegal-immigration sweep in 2005, and San Antonio Aerospace, which was fined more than $1 million last year by the FAA for failing to conduct pre-employment drug tests) don't inspire confidence. And Larry Pike has seen the results.

"We have found corrosion on some of our aircraft coming back from maintenance that was just painted over," says Pike. "You can take a screwdriver and scrape flakes of metal right off."

Pike says corrosion "takes time" to show up, but when it does it will be too late.

"Corrosion eats away at aluminum like battery acid," he says. "It takes a little while to start seeing it, but I'm afraid that we'll start seeing airframes falling out of the sky. I'm concerned one day we'll be seeing smoking holes in the ground."

Tom Hoban is equally distressed by the industry's shift to lower-cost maintenance.

"We've been carrying this airline on our backs for quite some time with the maintenance issues," he tells me. "We have had enough and we're not going to do it anymore."

Louie Key, for one, is not optimistic.

"It's probably going to get worse; it's certainly not getting any better," he says. "This is going to spread, and it certainly has already."

To Larry Pike, even a mid-air tragedy might not be enough to force changes.

"The airlines have insurance by Lloyd's of London and everything's covered," he says. "They don't lose any money. But I look at the tail numbers of these aircraft and I know what's going on. American continues to downplay all of this, 'The union is upset because they're losing work.' Yeah, I am concerned about losing work, but I'm concerned about losing my family too."

Follow Justin Rohrlich on Twitter: @chickenalaking
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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