Grounded planes and foreign maintenance: coincidence?

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Smack in the middle of the American Airlines fiasco I read an article in Business Week about the outsourcing of our airline plane maintenance. It quotes the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's report that two-thirds of all maintenance on our country's commercial airline fleet is done outside the U.S.

At airports in San Salvador, China, Singapore and Dubai, shops are opening to provide airliner services at a fraction of the cost of home service. In San Salvador, for example, an experienced mechanic takes around $5,000 vs. $50,000 in the United States.

The FAA oversees these 700 shops for quality, but critics (including the U.S. mechanics' unions) question the efficacy of the Adminstration's vetting. Another thorn in the process is the lack of drug and alcohol testing at some of these foreign shops, a requirement that is included in a new bill working its way through Congress.

Frankly, I have to wonder at the wisdom of outsourcing our plane maintenance to shops with questionable security at the same time Americans are being strip searched before they can board those planes. This seems like another example of exceeding common sense in our quest for the lowest price.

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