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ARSA CORNER


FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED


HEADING INTO ANOTHER FAA REAUTHORIZATION CYCLE, PAST EXPERIENCE WITH REPAIR STATION CERTIFICATION BANS SHOULD ENCOURAGE INDUSTRY ACTION


BY CHRISTIAN A. KLEIN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, AERONAUTICAL REPAIR STATION ASSOCIATION


YOU’RE NO DOUBT HEARING A LOT IN THE MEDIA ABOUT WHAT IS (OR ISN’T) HAPPENING ON CAPITOL HILL. COVERAGE ABOUT HEALTH CARE, TAX REFORM AND NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES, IS DROWNING OUT FOCUS ON ANOTHER ISSUE THAT COULD HAVE POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT BOTTOM LINE CONSEQUENCES FOR REPAIR STATIONS: FAA REAUTHORIZATION. EVEN IF THE MEDIA ISN’T FOCUSING ON IT, THE MAINTENANCE INDUSTRY MUST.


The current authorization of the FAA is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2017. The process to replace it is well underway. Early in the year, the House and Senate aviation subcommittees began holding hearings, engaging stakeholders and drafting proposals. The goal for the current Congress is to enact a new, multi-year budget blueprint for the agency to provide more long-term certainty about FAA resources and priorities. If that’s going to happen, things need to move quickly in order to beat the deadline.


Through the early part of the process, ARSA’s primary objective has been to raise the maintenance industry’s visibility and make sure lawmakers and staff are aware of the its contributions to the economy, airline efficiency and aviation safety. We’ve told the story of growing, high-tech, small business- dominated industry that employs more than 200,000 people, contributes more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy, is serving international customers at facilities around the country and has a positive balance of trade.


In these conversations, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback; there are many areas where members of


Congress are eager to work together. However, we’ve heard something not so positive: rumblings about a potential new ban on foreign (and even possibly domestic) repair stations.


In reality, our industry is caught between the Congress and the FAA. Recent FAA authorization laws have directed the agency to take various steps toward extending drug and alcohol testing to foreign repair stations and require pre-employment background investigations for all repair station employees performing safety-sensitive functions on air carrier aircraft. The lack of progress in either area has some on Capitol Hill considering “punishing” for the agency (but really, the industry) by preventing the FAA from issuing new repair station certificates.


If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right. In 2003, Congress enacted VISION 100, which included a provision requiring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to issue repair station security rules by August 2004 and to audit for compliance with the regulations within 18 months. The agency failed to meet its deadlines, so in 2007


lawmakers doubled down with a new deadline and, should the timeline slip, a prohibition from issuing new foreign repair station certifications. When TSA fell behind, in large part because the agency was focusing on other, real threats to transportation security, the ban took effect. Despite having no positive impact on safety and security, it lasted five years until the rule was finally issued in 2013, causing chaos for companies seeking to expand internationally.


Now, here we are again.


To be fair to the FAA, crafting D&A rules for foreign repair stations is no easy task. Many of the challenges — both the practical application and how to navigate a patchwork of national laws and privacy protections — were laid out in response to the agency’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the subject issued in 2014. (There has been no further action.)


It would be an enormous mistake to punish industry because of the FAA’s inaction. Much of the growth in the aviation sector in coming years will be overseas, with many U.S. companies expanding overseas to take advantage


42 DOMmagazine.com | july 2017


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