PBS Frontline, ARSA Stands Up For Aircraft Contract Maintenance


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PBS Frontline, ARSA Stands Up For Aircraft Contract Maintenance


January 20, 2011 – ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod defended the aviation maintenance industry on the PBS Television series Frontline in a report entitled “Flying Cheaper” that aired on January 18.

MacLeod sat down with Frontline correspondent Miles O’Brien last November for a wide-ranging interview about contract maintenance and the important role repair stations play in the international aviation network.

In the portion of MacLeod’s interview that aired during the program, she emphasized the positive aspects of contract maintenance, saying that it allows airlines to focus on their “core business” of flying passengers and cargo while maintaining a high level of safety and improving efficiency.

But rather than focusing on the economic and safety benefits of repair stations, the story sought to use alleged deficiencies at a single company to cast all contract maintenance in a negative light. The untold truth is the fact that air carriers’ increased use of contract maintenance providers has coincided with the safest period in U.S. commercial aviation history. That outcome is no mistake; rather, it is the result of an effective – and ever improving – network of industry controls in concert with existing regulations.  Safety is vital to the aviation industry.   

There is no incentive for any airline or repair facility to deliver an unsafe product; doing so would result in certain economic failure.  The Frontline report perpetuated misconceptions about Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight, implying that contract maintenance is not subject to the same standards as work done by airlines.


Contract maintenance work is no different from that done in-house; the work is always approved for return to service by a person or entity that is certificated.  It is simply not possible under existing regulations for an airline to have its maintenance performed willy-nilly all over the world by whomever it pleases without retaining responsibility for the work. 


The report reinforces the need to continue to improve the industry’s engagement with the media and enhance public understanding about the repair station’s role in global aviation. 

Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) is an Alexandria, Virginia-based trade association that represents aviation maintenance and manufacturing companies. The association has a distinguished 25-year record of advocating for repair stations and providing regulatory compliance assistance to the industry and representing repair stations on Capitol Hill and in the media. To read excerpts from MacLeod’s full interview.

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