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At Senate Hearing, GAO’s Dillingham Reviews FAA Certification & Consistency Initiatives

At a March 23 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Dr. Gerald Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported on the FAA’s progress towards certification process reform and improvements to consistency in rulemaking interpretation.

Dillingham, who was the luncheon speaker at ARSA’s 2017 Annual Repair Symposium, testified before the committee’s hearing “FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Improving Airport Infrastructure and Aviation Manufacturing.” His testimony included ARSA among its resources for assessing the agency’s performance and described a variety of committees and initiatives with which the association has participated. He reported the FAA has completed 13 of 14 certification initiatives and two of six regulatory consistency recommendations, including creation of the Regulatory Consistency Communication Board.

Dillingham also updated the committee on the progress of the AIR Transformation initiative, which ARSA actively supports: “FAA officials told us they had been engaging with industry…on AIR Transformation and a potential reorganization of AIR,” Dillingham’s written testimony said. “FAA officials also noted that the new organizational structure is changing the reporting hierarchy, and allowing AIR to provide more consistent responses to companies during the certification process. In addition, they said companies would maintain the same points of contact for undergoing certification of their aviation products.”

While he was generally positive about the agency’s performance, Dillingham did note – based on industry feedback gathered by GAO – that he was reporting the completion of tasks and recommendations. It remains to be seen how those headquarters-level actions will translate into continuing improvement for certificate holders.

ARSA has played a key role in the FAA’s certification and consistency improvement efforts, including participation on the Consistency in Rulemaking Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (CRI ARC). The association will continue to work with the agency, and press it when necessary, to improve its mechanisms for overseeing the maintenance and manufacturing communities.

Peggy Gilligan, soon-to-retire FAA associate administrator for aviation safety and recipient of the 2017 Weston Award, also testified at the hearing. Dillingham and Gilligan were joined by witnesses from ARSA-member Southwest Airlines, St. Louis Lambert International Airport and Sabreliner Aviation.

To see more of what happened during the hearing, visit: http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/3/faa-reauthorization-perspectives-on-improving-airport-infrastructure-and-aviation-manufacturing.

3/8/17 - Aviation Maintenance Industry is Healthy, ARSA Tells Congress, But Threats Loom

March 8, 2017

Aviation maintenance industry companies are generally optimistic about the economic outlook for 2017, but wary of the risk of new regulatory burdens and confronting a chronic shortage of skilled technical workers. That message was delivered by ARSA to members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in a statement for the record of a March 8 aviation subcommittee hearing.

ARSA told committee members the industry has a massive economic footprint in the United States, employing more than 277,000 people who generate $44 billion in annual economic activity.

Repair stations are generally optimistic about the health of their industry and prospects for 2017, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein said in the statement. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents to ARSA’s 2017 member survey said they expect their revenues and markets to grow in the coming year; fewer than seven percent expected contraction.

Klein also told committee members that government intrusion through overregulation is perceived by maintenance providers as a major threat to the industry. ARSA urged lawmakers to carefully consider whether proposals that impose new regulations or mandates improve safety and whether the additional regulatory burden makes sense considering the totality of existing requirements.

The ARSA statement also highlight the ways in which workers and companies in almost every state benefit from international trade in aviation maintenance services. More than 1,400 U.S. facilities are approved to work on European-registered aircraft and related components. ARSA survey respondents indicated that, on average, a quarter of company revenues is derived from work done under a bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA).

ARSA told the committee that repair stations consider the technical talent shortage to be the biggest challenge confronting the industry. Thirty-one percent of ARSA survey respondents reported having “a lot of difficultly” finding qualified workers to fill technical positions over the past two years; half of respondents reported having “some difficulty” and fewer than one-fifth said they had no difficulty. Half of ARSA survey respondents reported having open, unfilled technical positions.

Finally, ARSA highlighted the need to invest in America’s airports, saying that Congress must look for fiscally-responsible ways to expand America’s airport capacity to improve passenger mobility, enhance system efficiency and ensure the continued growth and health of the aviation industry.

To read the entire statement, visit: arsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ARSA-AviationSubComHearingStatement-20170308.pdf.

2/28/17 - House Aviation Subcommittee Talks Certification, Workforce in First Hearing

February 28, 2017

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation held its first hearing of the 115th Congress on Feb. 15, to discuss the “State of American Aviation Manufacturing.”  The hearing was the first in the ongoing series “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America,” focusing on FAA reauthorization and reform and the modernization of America’s aviation system.  

The witnesses included FAA Aviation Safety Office leadership as well as industry representatives from Pratt and Whitney, Boeing and Textron Aviation. Certification process reform dominated the hearing and testimony, with both the agency and industry strongly supporting the part 23 rewrite and expansion of the organizational designation authorization (ODA) process.

The subcommittee’s membership expressed a strong bipartisan desire to reform and streamline the certification process. Promoting aviation workforce development was also raised by several members, with witnesses voicing strong support for government-industry-educational institution partnerships, particularly those with community colleges aimed at expanding America’s skilled trade workforce.

Among other topics discussed were the extension of bilateral certification agreements and the ongoing implementation of the Next-Gen program.

“As the aviation industry expands its international reach, and introduces new technologies and innovations, it is critical that the FAA certification and regulatory process adapt and respond.” Subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), said in a statement. “The FAA must leverage the expertise of the private sector and fully utilize all the authorities it has been granted.”

To see everything that happened during the hearing, click here.

Stay tuned to ARSA as the House continues to work on improving the American aviation system. For more information on T&I’s continuing series of hearings, visit transportation.house.gov/calendar.



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