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Concerns Raised About Passenger Safety Over Foreign Airplane Repair Work

FORT WORTH (CBS11) - The labor union representing American Airlines mechanics and ground crews has hired a firm run by the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security to investigate if foreign repair work on planes is putting passengers at risk.

Ridge Global will do the analysis.

In a release announcing the contract, Ridge said his firm will look at the potential for "mechanical failures or potential terrorist attacks" due to contract operations.

The Transport Workers Union of America, currently trying to negotiate a new contract for American Airlines employees, raised the security issue often during a series of demonstrations at U.S. airports over the summer.

American Airlines planes at DFW Airport
American Airlines planes at DFW Airport (Chopper11)

Gary Peterson, the president of TWU Local 591, said while the union has an interest in securing jobs, it's not the primary reason for the evaluation.

"This isn't about just whether or not somebody's just doing the job, a union member from our local. This is a real risk that we see to the flying public, and significantly our flight crews," he said.

Peterson explained that as aircraft continue to be operated by more electronics, everyone should be concerned about who has access to sections of planes that aren't always in plain sight.

Foreign repair work has been common in the industry for years, both out of convenience and cost. Mark Drusch, the Vice President for airlines with consulting firm ICF, said because the FAA certifies foreign repair stations now, any findings would have to be significant enough to convince the agency it's a problem and there's need for a change.

Pushing maintenance back to the U.S. he said, would likely only come as the result of a change that drove costs higher overseas.

"If the TWU wants to spend their money to check, that's a good thing," he said. "Nothing bad can come of it. Either we find out, yeah it's all fine. It's all the same standards already, and the FAA has been doing their job. Or we find out yeah there's some standards we can improve in which case the industry will improve."

American denied it's seeking to locate any more inspection or maintenance than what it does now, and would continue to perform the bulk of its work in the United States.

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