"The system is remarkably safe -- but not by luck. It is by intent," says Gilligan, the associate administrator for aviation safety at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Goodrich, a veteran FAA inspector, has been involved with inspecting airplanes for 25 years. She is currently vice president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, a union for FAA and Department of Defense employees. Goodrich explains: "Everybody built in for years a very large margin of safety into the system, and that safety margin has been just dissolving over time."

"You can't fly an unairworthy aircraft, so part of your business is obviously to keep airworthy aircraft," says MacLeod, executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, an organization that represents aircraft repair stations worldwide. "But if I can have you do it more efficiently, it's kind of foolish for me not to."

Read ARSA's response to our program here.

"It's cost; there's no question," says McGee, a journalist and consumer advocate, on the topic of why airlines outsource maintenance. McGee serves on the Department of Transportation's Future of Aviation Advisory Committee and is an FAA-licensed aircraft dispatcher.


blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

Posted January 18, 2011; Updated January 20, 2011

Watch Flying Cheaper »
FRONTLINE series home | Privacy Policy | Journalistic Guidelines | PBS Privacy Policy | PBS Terms of Use

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation