Airline maintenance outsourcing worldwide

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 

Drag the map to recenter it; zoom in or out by clicking on the panel at the top left. Roll over the bubbles for more information about aircraft mechanics in each country's FAA-certified repair stations. Bubbles are sized according to number of mechanics in that country.

About the map

A decade ago, aircraft repair and maintenance work was mostly done by airlines flying the planes. Today, most major airlines outsource the bulk of heavy maintenance to lower-cost independent operations in the U.S. and abroad. And generally, most of the mechanics at these independent facilities aren't FAA-licensed.

Federal Aviation Regulations allow U.S.-based repair stations to hire unlicensed mechanics as long as they're properly supervised by licensed mechanics. In these U.S.-based facilities, 46 percent of mechanics hold some FAA license.

But increasingly, contract maintenance is being done overseas in FAA-certified facilities spread across 64 countries. In these facilities, less than 4 percent of the mechanics hold a FAA license of any kind -- although their mechanics may substitute sufficient training or expertise for an FAA license. For more, read the investigation or watch the documentary.

Source: FAA records, as of Nov. 19, 2010

Lisa Hill and Catherine Rentz contributed to this feature.