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Congress Extends FAA Authorization

There was some drama as things came down to the wire, but Congress ultimately did what everyone expected and voted Sept. 28 to extend the FAA’s current authorization for another six months.

Early in the week of Sept. 25, the House sent the Senate a short-term FAA authorization bill that included unrelated language to encourage the creation of private flood insurance markets.  The flood provision drew bipartisan opposition from senators wanting to address the issue as part of a broader flood insurance debate. The Senate ultimately stripped the controversial language, passed the bill and sent it back to the House for quick approval before President Trump signed the bill into law.

The extension keeps FAA’s lights on through March 30, 2018 and buys more time for lawmakers to hash out the details of a longer-term FAA reauthorization bill.  Congress’ efforts at long-term policy have been hampered in the House by disagreement over whether to spin off air traffic control responsibilities from the FAA and in the Senate over language to reform pilot training requirements.

ARSA members can get deeper insight into the reauthorization process in the “ARSA on the Hill” section of the hotline, including an update on the status of the five amendments proposed by the association. Direct queries on legislative matters may also be submitted via the Ask ARSA first! system.

Previous 2017 Reauthorization Updates...

9/25/17 - Congress Set for Quick Action on FAA Extension

September 25, 2017

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has introduced legislation to keep the FAA operating for another six months.  Under current law, the FAA’s budget authority expires on Sept. 30.  House and Senate committees passed multi-year FAA reauthorization bills this summer but the legislation has not received floor consideration in either chamber. 

As far as aviation policy goes, the House FAA extension is a “clean bill,” meaning that it simply extends authorization dates and doesn’t make any changes to current aviation policy.  However, in the wake of recent hurricanes, the includes language aimed at strengthening flood insurance programs.

With the clock running down to Sept. 30, the FAA extension bill is expected to receive swift House and Senate consideration.  Once the extension has been enacted, the focus will shift back to enacting a long-term FAA bill.  In the House, Chairman Shuster is still working to round up votes to support his legislation, which has garnered opposition from the general aviation community because it would separate air traffic control functions from the FAA. The Senate bill does not include the ATC provision; however, Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) is blocking the bill over concerns about changes to pilot training requirements.

ARSA will continue its efforts to use the reauthorization process to address regulatory concerns and the aviation workforce skills gap (read below to refresh your memory on this work).  To get more involved in ARSA’s advocacy, contact ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein.

6/30/17 - Maintenance Matters in Both House and Senate FAA Bills

June 30, 2017

On June 30, ARSA issued the following statement in response to recent congressional action on FAA reauthorization legislation. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee marked up and passed its bill on June 27 and the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation did the same on June 29.

Both bills were amended to include provisions important to the aviation maintenance industry (see June 27 story below). The House and Senate committees adopted amendments sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) to add aviation maintenance to the list of stakeholders that will participate on the FAA’s new Certification & Oversight Advisory Committee. The House T&I Committee adopted an amendment offered by Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) to request a Government Accountability Office report on the aviation technician shortage. The Senate Commerce Committee also adopted amendments offered by Sen. Inhofe to restore the right of repair stations to voluntarily surrender their certificates and explore making repairman certificates issued to mechanics portable from one employer to another.

“ARSA is very pleased by the significant progress that both the House and Senate made this past week on the FAA reauthorization front,” ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein said. “Reauthorization represents an important opportunity to make America’s aviation system more efficient, build upon the industry’s outstanding safety record and increase economic activity in our sector. Both the House and Senate bills go a long way towards achieving those goals, particularly by improving the certification process and encouraging international cooperation between the FAA and other civil aviation authorities.

“We especially appreciate Sen. Inhofe’s leadership in offering several amendments to the Senate bill to address the aviation maintenance industry skilled worker shortage and improve the regulatory environment for repair stations and we thank Reps. Hank Johnson, Cheri Bustos, Rob Woodall, Bruce Westerman, and Brenda Lawrence for offering aviation maintenance-related provisions in the House.”

In order to get a perspective from Sen. Inhofe’s aviation-rich home state, Klein reached out to J. Terrell Siegfried, assistant general counsel & corporate secretary of NORDAM, an industry-leading aviation maintenance company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma and ARSA member. Siegfried said:

“In proposing these amendments, Sen. Inhofe has once again demonstrated he is a true champion for the aviation maintenance industry, which employs close to 12,000 Oklahomans and 277,000 people nationwide. Oklahoma’s repair stations are fortunate to have a leader like Sen. Inhofe in Washington, D.C. looking out for their interests.”

6/27/17 - ARSA Works Maintenance Amendments into FAA Bill Markup Sessions

June 27, 2017

It’s the busiest week for aviation policy on Capitol Hill in recent memory. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee marked up its FAA reauthorization bill on Tuesday and the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee is set to mark up its bill Thursday morning.

For the maintenance industry, the news is generally positive: At this point in neither bill includes language hostile to repair stations. In fact, amendments are being added to address the aviation maintenance industry technician shortage and improve the regulatory environment for repair stations.

Click here to read ARSA’s letter to Shuster and DeFazio urging swift action to reauthorize the FAA.

Maintenance Amendments

Industry allies in Congress have proposed three amendments to address the skills gap. The first by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) would create a pilot program administered by the FAA to award grants to schools, governmental entities, and businesses that work together to improve technical education, create apprenticeship programs, help former military personnel transition to civilian aviation maintenance careers, and attract new talent to the industry (click here to view the House amendment).  Johnson offered and then withdrew the amendment during markup due to concerns expressed by T&I Committee leaders about how to pay for the program.  ARSA will work to add the language to the House bill prior to House passage.

The second amendment by Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) would task the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study causes, effects and solutions to the technician shortage (click here to view the House amendment).  That amendment was unanimously approved by the committee as part of an en bloc amendment.

Finally, Sen. Inhofe is developing an amendment to start the process of making repairman certificates issued by the FAA portable. Under current rules, a repairman loses his or her certificate when he or she changes jobs and must reapply and be recommended for a new certificate by the next employer. Portability would make it easier for technicians to move between jobs, reduce bureaucratic inefficiency and make the certificate a more valuable professional credential, thereby encouraging more people to pursue it and aviation industry careers. ARSA will be working to get parallel language added to the House bill.

Inhofe also plans to propose an amendment to restore the right of repair stations to voluntarily surrender their repair station certificates like all other certificate holders. The FAA’s 2014 updates to part 145 added a requirement for “affirmative acceptance” by the agency of a surrendered certificate, but there is no defined process, no enumerated circumstances for acceptance or even an indication of whose decision it is. This creates considerable uncertainty for companies that wish to cease operations, merge or restructure.  

In 2015, ARSA and several other aviation industry trade associations petitioned the FAA to restore the right to surrender. The agency denied the petition and has never acted on an official request for reconsideration. Inhofe’s proposed language would direct a rulemaking to restore the right to surrender while ensuring that surrender cannot be used by “bad actors” to avoid certificate action. Getting parallel voluntary surrender language in the House bill is a top ARSA priority. 

Finally, Sen. Inhofe and Reps. Johnson and Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) are also trying to amend the bills to ensure repair stations have a seat on the FAA’s new Certification & Oversight Advisory Committee (click here to view the House amendment).  The T&I Committee unanimously approved that proposal as part of an en bloc amendment.

Keep Moving Forward

Early success on a range of issues important to repair stations (and the absence at this point of hostile language) is a reflection of ARSA’s stepped up engagement on the Hill this year. Association members and staff have held close to 100 meetings both in Washington and at facilities back home. The association is now reaching out to members on a targeted basis to weigh in with key lawmakers. Those who have done so – or who will answer the call very soon – are providing a great service in amplifying the voice of the maintenance community.

Despite all the activity this week, the outlook for the FAA bills is still highly uncertain. There is considerable disagreement between House Republicans and Democrats and between the House and Senate over privatization of air traffic control (The House bill would privatize but the Senate bill wouldn’t). If lawmakers cannot reach consensus, it’s likely that Congress will pass another short-term extension and then return and reconsider FAA issues later this year or early next year.

ARSA’s position is that the FAA needs a long-term budget and policy blueprint and is urging lawmakers to enact a multi-year bill as soon as possible.

Stay tuned…there’s a lot to be done before the president signs an FAA bill into law.

5/16/17 - Don’t Punish Industry for FAA Delays, ARSA Tells Congress

May 16, 2017

As Congress begins the process of reauthorizing the FAA, ARSA is urging lawmakers not to punish the aviation maintenance industry because the agency has not yet finalized new rules for repair stations.

Recent FAA authorization laws have directed the agency to undertake rulemakings to extend drug and alcohol (D&A) testing to foreign repair stations and require pre-employment background investigations for all repair station employees performing safety-sensitive functions on air carrier aircraft.   For various reasons, including the complexity of the issues and potential impact on thousands of small businesses, the FAA has yet to finalize the rules.

In a letter sent to the leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure and Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committees on May 15, ARSA urged lawmakers to give the FAA adequate time to complete the rulemakings.  In 2008, Congress banned the FAA from issuing new foreign repair station certificates if the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to issue repair station security rules.  The subsequent ban lasted until the rules were issued in 2013, causing significant economic disruptions for airlines and maintenance companies – including many from the United States – wishing to open facilities abroad.

ARSA said that instituting a new ban on repair station certificates – foreign or domestic – would make it difficult for U.S. companies to tap into foreign markets, make it harder for U.S. air carriers to operate internationally, and potentially subject U.S. facilities to retaliation by foreign aviation authorities. 

“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them,” ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein said in the letter.  “Punishing industry would do nothing to motivate executive branch action but would instead undermine growth in a globally-competitive sector of the U.S. economy, undermine the FAA’s ability to pursue reciprocal acceptance of U.S. certifications abroad, and further jeopardize the U.S. aviation industry’s global leadership.”

The letter to House T&I Committee leaders can be viewed at: arsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ARSA-CongressionalDALetter-20170515.pdf

The letter to Senate Commerce Committee leaders can be viewed at: arsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ARSA-SenateDALetter-20170515.pdf.


Bookmark this page for more updates as the reauthorization process continues. To catch up on what happened in the 114th Congress, visit: arsa.org/faa-reauthorization-2016.



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