By Gail Dunham
When you, your family and friends take a flight, you want to know that the aircraft and maintenance measure up to the highest safety standards possible. How can you be confident about safety when you wonder if your plane was serviced by an illegal immigrant with fraudulent documents?
TIMCO has refused to accept corporate responsibility for who works on the aircraft it services. Gil West, president of TIMCO, should look at how things went so terribly wrong in his shop, rather than criticize the News & Record for its excellent and accurate reporting of the story.
TIMCO should be investigated for not ensuring that it and its subcontractors did federally required background checks. Since 2001, federal agents have found about 1,000 illegal immigrants working in aircraft maintenance, usually for third-party contractors like TIMCO, and thousands of "unauthorized" workers in aviation. This should have alerted them to do a better job of checking their employees.
An employee of SMART, a TIMCO subcontractor, has been charged with actually helping an illegal immigrant get the fraudulent documents to get their jobs. SMART was also one of those responsible for the deaths of 21 people on US Airways Flight 5481 in January 2003 in Charlotte. Despite these warnings and more, the March 2005 raid showed TIMCO was not doing adequate background checks.
Gil West said TIMCO critics are mostly "union employees pursuing their own political and personal agendas." Wrong. Critics are family members who buried their loved ones because of lax maintenance, aviation professionals and the traveling public.
How can one certified mechanic supervise and oversee five to 10 trainees or untrained immigrants? The FAA and GAO have said that FAA surveillance of third-party contractors and outsourced vendors is "most difficult," and the FAA is very understaffed in this area.
Gil West said that TIMCO has never compromised safety or security. It would be better to admit that serious mistakes were made and tell us what they are doing to ensure those mistakes will not happen again. Stop the "spin," accept corporate responsibility, and get serious about higher standards for TIMCO and all subcontractors. Until TIMCO employs a larger percentage of licensed professionals and fewer trainees, and assures us it is not directly or indirectly hiring illegal aliens, we will wonder -- who did the maintenance on your flight?
The writer lives in Summerfield and is president of National Air Disaster Alliance, representing air crash survivors and family members from more than 100 aviation disasters.
Here is a link to the National Air Disaster Alliance site:
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