A Different Theory About Why Airplanes Crash

Is there anything more terrifying than the idea of falling from thousands of feet in the air in an airplane into thousands of feet of ocean? When the AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed, 162 people experienced just such an event. Of course the Java Sea is relatively shallow and just as deadly.

Why Airplanes Crash. Credit: Greg L - originally posted to Flickr as Plane crash into Hudson River. CC 2.0.

Why Airplanes Crash. Credit: Greg L – originally posted to Flickr as Plane crash into Hudson River. CC 2.0.

But when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed somewhere in the deep Indian Ocean last March, it was never found. It unnerves me to imagine all those people strapped in their seats in the dark, forever lost.

So why do planes crash? If people know why a plane crashes, they might be able to fly more safely. Did the weather with vertical winds and lightning cause the crash? Had the plane just flown too many hours and suffered metal fatigue? Were the pilots too tired, poorly trained, or careless? Did the engines suck in a flock of birds? Was it terrorism?

What if the reason airplanes crash is that airlines outsource their maintenance? They used to do all preventive maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) in this country. But then the airlines were deregulated. They started outsourcing maintenance to be more competitive. Now outsourcing has become a global practice. Airlines are sending one out of three planes to developing countries for overhaul and repair.

So where do our planes go for maintenance? From NPR:

Industry analysts say there are roughly 700 FAA-approved repair companies in other countries — including repair shops in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, China, and Indonesia. The Aeroman company in El Salvador is becoming one of the more popular, drawing business from US Airways, JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest, and other U.S. carriers.

The way the system works, the airlines fly empty planes needing an overhaul to Aeroman’s hangars at the international airport near the capital, San Salvador. Salvadoran mechanics strip the inside of the plane down to the bare metal. They fix cracks and rust and bad wiring. Then they put everything back together, and the plane is flown back to the U.S.

Congress passed a mandate in 2012 to regulate all U.S. airline mechanics. But the FAA has some maintenance loopholes. It doesn’t require airlines to account for where they sent planes or what kinds of repairs were made. And, FAA inspectors may not get around to inspecting a foreign repair shop for up to five years. Once there, inspectors have found mechanics lacking training and tools.

There is an FAA rating system for planes flying into our country. The EU and UK have their own. But I’m not so sure I trust the FAA. However, they are thinking about subjecting outsourcing shops to drug-and-alcohol testing.

Thinking? Well isn’t that nice? No rush, because what harm could drunk or drugged mechanics possibly do?


This article appeared originally in Liberal America.

About Gloria Christie

 Gloria Christie founded Gloria Christie Reports, a common sense column about liberal politics. She wrote for Addictinginfo.org, the Kansas City Star, Where High Technology Meets Politics for London’s IDG-Connect Blog and The Best Times. Her total readership is over 5 million. Christie has an MS in radio-TV-film and an MPA in business/government relations. She was a systemic problems consulting expert for Fortune 100/500 businesses here and off-shore. Christie invented and implemented the first computerized patient chart. She also worked on Howard Dean’s, John Kerry’s, and Barak Obama’s presidential campaigns. She is particularly interested in liberal politics, high-tech, complex systems, and change. Like herFacebook page, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter. Click hereto by Gloria Christie a Mocha Coffee.