June 3 - BTC Letter To The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson Regarding Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing

June 3, 2009

The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee on Homeland Security 

176 Ford House Office Building 

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Thompson:

Business Travel Coalition writes to applaud you and Committee Members for inspired leadership and untiring determination in incorporating in H.R. 2200, Section 206, provisions that would close significant and ever-widening gaps in both homeland security and airline passenger safety when U.S. aircraft are repaired overseas.

U.S. Department of Transportation Inspectors General (DOT IGs) have warned Congress that the American people are recklessly being put at risk each day that there is not a single and high operating and oversight standard for aircraft maintenance and associated homeland security safeguards.

It is no secret that some airlines have been in a mad rush-to-the-bottom on costs. In previous economic downturns aircraft maintenance was always a boardroom sacred cow, but now it has been placed on the altar of sacrifice at some airlines. It is also vividly clear that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been indifferent to DOT IG reports and calls by Congress for reform. Compounding the problem is that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and FAA have not collaborated anywhere near the extent necessary to protect our airline passengers and homeland security.

It defies logic and is entirely unacceptable to require, for example, U.S. mechanics who strip our planes to the skin and rebuild them to pass background checks and drug and alcohol tests while not requiring the same of foreign workers performing similar tasks on U.S. aircraft. Likewise, to require aircraft undergoing these “D-Checks” in the U.S. to be worked on within a secured perimeter, with parts stored in a locked-down facility and accessed by background-checked mechanics while similar U.S. aircraft reportedly sit in unsecured lots overnight with none of these security protocols is high risk. Aircraft systems can be tampered with and explosives can be hidden in aircraft cavities during rebuilding.

While we spend billions of dollars on highly visible airport, seaport and border security, the answer from adversaries to our 21st century “Maginot Line” is a D-Check scheduled for a U.S. aircraft sitting in some unsecured field in the shadow of an al-Qaeda stronghold being worked on by individuals for whom a background check is virtually impossible. An explosive-laden airplane can be flown around our defenses and into cities and targets of high value by those who would seek to do us harm.

Mr. Chairman, Section 206 of H.R. 2200 will replace this delusional Maginot Line with real safety and security for our airline passengers and homeland. We wholeheartedly thank you for your leadership with this critical legislation.


Kevin Mitchell


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