DAVIES: I was shocked to read in the book that the FAA doesn't require the major carriers to even list their subcontractors?
MCGEE: You know, when I started investigating this issue, I can't tell you how naive I was. I thought this would be something where, you know, if I spent a little time looking at the record, that I could, you know, piece this together. And one of the first things I did was say, well, OK, where are U.S. airlines outsourcing their work, and who are they outsourcing it to?
And as an investigative reporter, I thought, well, that's a pretty simple thing. I was absolutely shocked to find out that not only could I not find that out, the FAA itself has been unable to find this out, and this has been documented and documented in congressional hearings, where independent government organizations, including the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation Inspector General's Office, have gone to the airlines and said: OK, where is the work being done and who's doing it?
And the airlines, amazingly, have responded that they're not clear, in some cases. They're not sure who's doing the work. Now, to me, this is just mind-boggling because to think that in the 21st century it would be a simple matter of, you know, contacting the accounts payable department and saying where are you cutting checks, you know, somebody must have a handle on this. And yet congressional testimony has shown that the FAA does not even have a full sense of where the work is being done.
And in many cases - this is where it's, you know, the bizarre gets even more bizarre, the outsourced facilities outsource themselves. So in some cases you have two and even three degrees of separation from the outsource company. In one case that I looked at, critical work on an aircraft was being done by a surfboard repair shop in California, and the FAA immediately sort of stepped in and stopped that.
DAVIES: Critical work?
MCGEE: Yes. That was that basically a body panel on an aircraft was made from a material that was similar to surfboard, was, you know, was given to an outsourced shop, and they in turn contacted a surfboard shop. Unfortunately, the gentleman running the surfboard shop had no FAA certification and had never worked on an aircraft before.