This is probably old news to Americans, but I just came across it now. It seems that a number of FAA testing centres were not administering the full test to prospective aircraft mechanics, just passing them anyway. It's not clear to me whether the candidates paid extra to take exams they were guaranteed to pass, or whether the testing centre simply charged the normal fee and gained extra revenue by taking less time per student for the testing and attracting extra business as word of the expedited process at that testing centre spread. It's probably coincidental that a lot of this occurred in Texas, and that it was work done in Texas that was the final straw in our Person Responsible for Maintenance deciding to always fly a company mechanic out to work on our airplanes.
I have a few thoughts on this. I'm probably not as horrified as the media tells me I should be, because I don't think exams are the end-all and be-all of knowing how to fix an airplane. A newly "qualified" person is probably going to be supervised anyway, and regardless of how they was tested or how they did on the test, new personnel are going to learn lots more as they actually do the job. If someone challenged your possession of your credentials and asked you to redo your qualification tests right now, would you pass? I have to repass my proficiency test on this airplane every year, which includes an oral knowledge portion, but I wonder how well I would do on the ATPL written papers. I'll bet there are hundreds of competent Canadian pilots who couldn't pass the PSTAR right now. That's the written test on which you must score 90% before making your first solo flight, usually at around ten to twenty hours of flight time.
Taking an exam in Spanish in a predominantly Spanish-speaking area didn't sound so bad right off. The pilot might speak Spanish too, and pretty much anyone can point at a part and say "no va" or draw a diagram of their problem. I have done that with English-speaking mechanics, when my problem went beyond my vocabulary. Then I learned words like escutcheon. Sometimes the engineer has to look up the name of the part in a book. The problem comes when an esoteric part arrives with important English-language instructions that the mechanic can't properly interpret. The person also needs to be able to understand and implement ADs, not always the most clearly worded documents. The altavista babelfish isn't going to cut it there.
A lot of airplane maintenance and repair tasks are not that hard. I just changed the brake pads and hydraulic filter under supervision of an AME. There are plenty of people more mechanically inclined than I am who could diagnose and repair problems without a lot of formal training. So I don't think that the improperly tested people are going to be producing repair jobs like these, but, assuming they had the same training courses as the typical candidate, then a number of them left their training with weak areas that should have been identified and retested. What it comes down to is that when I do maintenance work an airplane, a properly certified AME watches and takes responsibility for it. If someone cheated on a test, where's the responsibility?
I would definitely like to have incompetent personnel removed from the roster of qualified aircraft repair people. But I don't believe all of the incompetents are graduates of improper testing centres, or vice versa.