Aviation workers warn of 737 Max-style crashes if safety bill not passed – Business Insider

  • A transportation union representing around 150,000 workers is joining calls to overhaul rules around how non-US aviation maintenance bases are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The Transport Workers Union says the bill could help prevent another “catastrophic disaster” like the two Boeing 737 Max crashes, which killed a total of 346 people.
  • On Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee passed a bill that seeks to increase oversight by the FAA on overseas maintenance bases used by US airlines to carry out repairs on their aircraft when they are stationed outside the US. 
  • “We don’t want to have a situation where America wakes up one morning to a catastrophic disaster involving foreign maintenance of passenger aircraft, which is what happened with the Max,” John Samuelsen, the TWU’s president told Forbes.
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A transportation union representing 60,000 aviation workers this week joined calls to tighten regulations governing oversight of plane repairs carried out in foreign countries.

The Transport Workers Union says that there is currently a gap in the law which means repairs to US aircraft carried out overseas are subject to laxer safety controls.

It backed a bill moving through Congress designed to change that. Officials said that failing to do so could lead to another “catastrophic disaster” like the two Boeing 737 Max crashes, one of which — the October 2018 Lion Air crash which killed 189 people — was blamed in part on improper maintenance of the US-built plane.

The union has 150,000 members, 60,000 of whom work in aviation. It represents staff from airlines including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue, all of which have 737 Max aircraft.

The union backed the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act as it was passed by the House Transportation Committee. In order to become law, it would still need to be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The bill seeks to increase oversight by the FAA on overseas maintenance bases used by US airlines to carry out repairs on their aircraft when they are stationed outside the US. 

If passed into law, it would require the FAA to carry out unannounced inspections on these overseas repair stations, and introduce minimum qualification standards for mechanics and other workers working on US aircraft at the stations.

Those measures, Rep. Peter DeFazio, the transportation committee’s chairman, said when introducing the bill, would bring foreign repair stations into line with US-based maintenance facilities.

De Fazio said the bill would establish “one standard of safety regardless of where the aircraft is maintained.”

“We’re at an unfortunate moment in our aviation system’s history where safety standards are being questioned, and the bottom line is safety has to be the number one priority,” he added, according to the aviation news website AIN Online.

John Samuelsen, the president of the Transport Workers Union, said that increased oversight of repair bases outside the US would help to avoid future aviation disasters related to poor maintenance.

“There are clear parallels between the safety and oversight gaps on the manufacturing side, with the Boeing [737] Max, and those on the maintenance side,” he told Forbes.

“We don’t want to have a situation where America wakes up one morning to a catastrophic disaster involving foreign maintenance of passenger aircraft, which is what happened with the Max,” he added.

Boeing, 737 Max

Aircraft safety is under sharper scrutiny since the two 737 Max crashes.
Reuters


While the union is backing the bill, not everyone in the aviation industry is happy about it. The Aeronautical Repair Station Association, a lobbying group for the repair industry, described the bill as “policymaking at its worst,” according to aviation news website Flight Global.

The Transport Workers Union backing the new bill is the latest in a series of safety concerns raised by airline workers in the aftermath of the 737 Max disasters.

Last week the head of the union representing American Airlines cabin crew implored Boeing to involve flight attendants in the process of recertifying the 737 Max, saying that some crew are literally begging not to fly on the plane when it returns to service.

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