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Vanity Fair: Airline Industry Unsafe

What was the purpose of Vanity Fair’s December issue article blasting outsourced maintenance? Is it a propaganda tool?

What was the purpose of Vanity Fair’s December issue article blasting outsourced maintenance? James B. Steele’s “Disturbing Truth About How Airplanes Are Maintained Today” reads like a vendetta against outsourcing. He simplifies it to—U.S. airlines are contracting out maintenance offshore to cut costs and this results in unsafe aircraft.

He fails to point out that the U.S. airline industry has experienced its safest period lately, which has happened during increased contract maintenance.

Carole Giles, president and CEO of The Giles Group and former aircraft maintenance manager of FAA’s Flight Standards division, wrote on her LinkedIn post, if Steele had objectively researched the article, “he would have discovered multiple layers of oversight and audits from the regulator to the airlines to the suppliers and to the repair stations themselves.”

And the fact under Part 121, carriers are responsible for the maintenance of their aircraft—whether they do it themselves or outsource it.

“Commercial aviation is one of the world’s most regulated industries. While regulations alone don't assure a safe system, the controls and processes put in place by airlines, repair stations, and regulators do add that assurance. There is nothing lost in translation with the outstanding safety record of the U.S. airlines,” Giles eloquently concludes on LinkedIn.

Steele seemed to have an agenda, and his article is “rife with other omissions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies,” writes ARSA executive VP Christian Klein. For instance, “Steele points to lost jobs but fails to mention that the thousands of repair stations in the United States employ 200,000 people, four times more than work as U.S. airline mechanics. Nor does he mention that the civil aviation maintenance industry contributes $43 billion per year to the U.S. economy,” writes Klein on the association’s website.

Is the Vanity Fair article a propaganda tool?

Pictured: ATS is an MRO near Seattle that employs more than 1,000 people and performs outsourced maintenance.

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