ST Aerospace has publicly defended its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) firm in Mobile, Alabama following allegations raised by a television expose on PBS Television.

The PBS TV reporter interviewed ST Aerospace Mobile employees and also referred to company documents and FAA reports to support allegations that the company had on occasion made use of illegal aircraft parts, signed off on work that hadn’t been completed, failed to do proper background checks on employees and had a significant proportion of foreign nationals who had inadequate English language skills.

ST Aerospace executive VP aircraft maintenance and modification, Ang Chye Kiat, says the company does proper background checks on prospective employees in accordance with FAA rules. He says the company interviews all prospective employees and checks their qualifications and references. The company has the documentation to prove it has done these checks, he adds.

He also says all new employees are put through a one-week orientation course and after that they are assigned to a supervisor who will monitor the employee’s work closely to see whether they in fact have the necessary on-the-job skills. The PBS report asserted that two-thirds of the employees at ST Aerospace Mobile are foreign nationals, but Ang says the number of foreign nationals is less than 10%.

He says the company only employs people who have good English language skills and have worked for companies where English is the main language in the workplace. To ensure there is no misunderstanding, the company has a policy of assigning employees – who are foreign nationals – to team leaders who are bi-lingual in the respective languages. He also says the company provides all employees with regular training to ensure their skills remain current.

The PBS report alleged that ST Aerospace Mobile has on occasion signed off on work that had in fact never been done. It referred to company documents to support this claim and cited the example of three US Airways Airbus A330s that had left the MRO facility last year and were later found to have trim tank fuel leaks because work that was supposed to have been done in Mobile wasn’t done.

Ang stops short of rebutting this specific claim but says the company expects its employees to follow-through with work. ST Aerospace Mobile never puts its employees in a position where they feel they have to sign off on work - that is not done – in order to meet deadlines, he says. “We absolutely do not allow that and we make it very clear to our employees this kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” he adds.

The PBS report also alleged that the company last April moved truckloads of illegal aircraft parts from its facility to an off-site warehouse so as to avoid detection by FAA inspectors. Illegal aircraft parts are those that are untraceable and as a consequence non-compliant with FAA regulations.

Ang says ST Aerospace Mobile has no illegal aircraft parts. He says those parts that were shifted to an off-site warehouse were parts for older aircraft types that ST Aerospace Mobile no longer works on.

He says the parts in this off-site warehouse were then mutilated and disposed of in accordance with FAA regulations.

The PBS report cited FAA documents to support claims that ST Aerospace Mobile has a shortage of qualified maintenance personnel. English proficiency was lacking among some employees and there is a lack of proper training.

ST Aerospace says it has addressed the issues that the FAA raised. “We have an open and frank relationship with our PMI (principal maintenance inspector). All his concerns are addressed expeditiously and to his satisfaction,” says Ang. “Any of his observations are discussed with him immediately and clarified very quickly. If there is a genuine concern, we have always put in place the necessary corrective actions. We take any of the findings very seriously and eliminate the root cause.”

The PBS journalist also referred to company documents, which quoted from FAA reports. PBS’s reporter was probably able to get access to the company documents because these were leaked by company employees, says Ang. He says employees at various levels of the organization have access to these documents because the company is very open with its employees with regards to issues the company is facing. It has a policy of sharing information with employees and wants to remain open with its employees because this is the best way to address issues, he adds.

When asked what ST Aerospace’s future plans are for the Mobile facility in terms of expansion and new capabilities, Ang says the Mobile facility is already quite large and is topping 2.5 million man hours of work per annum. He says given the public scrutiny the facility has just faced, “we want to focus on making sure we deliver work well to our customers” and regain their confidence, he adds.