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Point To Ponder

Every restaurant in the Washington, DC, area is supposed to be inspected four times a year, according to an Aug. 12 article in the Washington Post newspaper. What does this factoid have to do with aviation safety? A great deal, one might argue. Restaurant meals are to home cooking as contract maintenance is to operator-performed maintenance. According to the Department of Transportation/Inspector General (DOT/IG), aircraft repair stations are inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) once or twice a year (see ASW, July 21). Consider some of the DOT/IG findings:

"While inspectors make multiple visits to in-house maintenance facilities each year, they are not required to visit repair stations used by the air carrier they oversee."
"[District office inspectors] only inspect repair stations once or twice a year ... in addition, the amount of time dedicated to these inspections can be surprisingly short."
"While international agreements allow [the] FAA to conduct sample inspections of stations that Germany, France and Ireland oversee on their behalf, current FAA guidance limits the number of inspections to 10 percent of the repair stations located in each country."
As Capt. Miller noted in his comments about aviation safety, prompt problem resolution is key to a safe operations. And "prompt problem resolution" relates to prompt problem rectification, which in turn relates to frequency of outside inspection, and hence the case for applying to repair stations the inspection frequency for restaurants. Unsanitary culinary practices can lead to indigestion and food poisoning; sloppy maintenance practices can lead to fatal crashes. While the probability of maintenance error may be lower than the probability of kitchen error, the consequence severity of error can be, as Miller pointed out, "extremely high."
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