Lobbyist Asks FAA to Drop Drug, Alcohol Testing for Outsourced Mechanics  :  Published February 2007 All Rights Reserved


Lobbyist Asks FAA to Drop Drug, Alcohol Testing for Outsourced Mechanics

Political lobbyist group, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA,) petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to exempt its contract employees from mandatory drug and alcohol testing. ARSA represents non-airline employed maintenance workers in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration ruled that employees and outsourced aircraft repair shops must undergo periodic drug and alcohol testing.

ARSA argues that such testing is too expensive. To this, the union of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) brief supporting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling. A hearing on ARSA's petition is expected 28 March 2007 in the United Stats Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

For more than a decade the FAA testing program has been mandatory for aircraft technicians directly employed by airlines. In January 2006 an FAA ruling clarified the existing rule that each person who performs aircraft maintenance or preventive maintenance, regardless of their employer or location, is subject to mandatory drug and alcohol testing. ARSA's petition admits that they want their members exempted from testing because of its added expense, which makes outsourced repairs less price-competitive with maintenance performed by airline employees.

"By trying to evade FAA-mandated drug and alcohol testing, ARSA is placing the selfish financial interests of its members ahead of the safety and security of the American flying public," said AMFA assistant national director Steve MacFarlane. "In the post-9/11 era, this is nothing short of irresponsible behavior."

Outsourcing (or contract) labor is a growing trend across all industries in the United States mainly in attempt to reduce staff and expenses to boost shareholder value on Wall Street. Such practice in the airline industry "has grown rapidly and raises serious safety and security concerns," contended AMFA.

Consumer Reports magazine took up the issue for their March 2007 issue in which the magazine declares outsourcing significantly raises airline safety concerns.

The article revealed that "much [outsourced] work is being done by unlicensed mechanics," and "arrests at some [outsourced] repair shops have snared terrorism suspects and undocumented workers [i.e., illegal aliens] who were subsequently deported." Consumer Reports noted that outsourced aircraft repair shops "are less subject to oversight than in-house [the airlines' own] shops, with fewer screening programs and fewer inspections, and that a Department of Transportation report found that "the FAA never inspected approximately 1,400 non-certificated repair facilities, including 104 foreign facilities."


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