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What do ARSA and Cate Blanchett Have In Common?

Cate Blanchett and ARSA have at least one thing in common:  Both are in the March 2016 edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Blanchett is featured for her movie career (48 films, 2 Academy Awards and 3 BAFTAS), ARSA for standing up for the aviation maintenance industry in the face of lazy journalism.

While Blanchett graces the magazine’s cover along with other Hollywood luminaries, you’ll find ARSA on the “Letters to the Editor” page (page 98 of the March print issue), where the magazine printed ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein’s submission highlighting the maintenance industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy, airline efficiency and aviation safety while refuting allegations made by James B. Steele about MRO in his “Disturbing Truth About How Airplanes Are Maintained Today” published in Vanity Fair in December 2015.

The full version of Klein’s response to Steele’s article is below (“Contract Aviation Maintenance: Safer, More Efficient”).  The edited version printed by Vanity Fair read as follows:

James B. Steele missed the opportunity to tell about a thriving, technologically sophisticated industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Contracting isn’t a trend; it’s the way almost all maintenance is done on aircraft.  Highly specialized F.A.A.-certified companies and individuals can perform the work more efficiently and effectively than owners and operators.  Repair stations have helped air carriers reduce costs and become more competitive without compromising safety.

Steele’s premise, that this is disturbing, collapses under the weight of a simple fact: the use of contract maintenance has coincided with the safest period in the history of U.S. civil aviation.  The impressive safety record is the result of a successful and ever improving network of industry controls working in concert with government regulations.

Christian A. Klein
Executive vice president
Aeronautical Repair Station Association
Alexandria, Virginia

For the past decade, ARSA has mounted an aggressive campaign to inform the public about the quality of the work performed by repair stations and the industry’s substantial economic contributions.  The association’s communications team reaches out to journalists and monitors the media on daily basis looking for opportunities to tell the industry’s story.  If you think an article warrants a response by ARSA, please share it via arsa@arsa.org or call 703.739.9543.

And when you see Vanity Fair on the newsstand, remember: ARSA is out there working for you!

Previously from ARSA...

Contract Aviation Maintenance: Safer, More Efficient

November 10, 2016

On Nov. 10, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein issued this response to James B. Steele’s “Disturbing Truth About How Airplanes Are Maintained Today,” published in the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine:

James B. Steele missed the opportunity to tell about a thriving, technologically-sophisticated industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans.  Instead, his “Disturbing Truth About How Airplanes Are Maintained Today” (Dec. 2015) relied on the hackneyed narrative that contract aviation maintenance means lost jobs and unsafe planes.

Contracting isn’t a trend; it’s the way almost all maintenance and alteration work is done on every type of aircraft flying—from large air transport to small private jets.  There’s a good reason: Highly-specialized Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated companies and individuals can perform the work more efficiently and effectively than owners and operators can themselves.  Repair stations have, for example, helped air carriers reduce costs and become more competitive without compromising safety.  And contracting isn’t unique to maintenance; every part of the aviation industry from manufacturing to operations relies on contractors.

Steele’s premise – that we should be “disturbed” about contract maintenance – collapses under the weight of a simple fact: The use of contract maintenance has coincided with the safest period in the history of U.S. civil aviation.  This impressive safety record isn’t an accident.  It’s the result of an effective and ever improving network of industry controls working in concert with government regulations.

Aside from a borrowed and discredited storyline, Steele’s article is rife with other omissions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies.  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.

He cites variations in the numbers of FAA-certificated mechanics at various types of facilities but neglects that an FAA-certificated person or entity always approves all maintenance work for return to service. Further, regardless of where work is done, all U.S.-registered aircraft are maintained to stringent FAA standards.

He points to the FAA’s limited resources and concerns about oversight but fails to describe the other scrutiny and inspections repair stations receive from airline customers, third-party accreditation bodies, other civil aviation authorities and repair stations’ own internal quality assurance teams.

In years past, labor organizations representing airline mechanics successfully planted alarmist stories like Steele’s to build support for legislation to make it harder for airlines to use repair stations and unnecessarily drive up costs for the maintenance industry.  With another FAA reauthorization bill on the horizon, it’s not surprising forces wedded to old ways of doing business should try to revive those storylines.

What is surprising and disappointing is that Vanity Fair allowed itself to become a propaganda tool.  Steele’s article is either poorly researched or intentionally one-sided.  Either way, to use his own words, it’s “as wrong as it is possible to be.”

To learn – or show others – more about the real world of contract aviation maintenance, visit AVMRO.arsa.org.



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