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House T&I Committee Approves FAA Bill with ARSA Backed Maintenance Provisions

On Feb. 15, the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee approved the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 658), 34-25. Despite attempts to amend the bill, the committee left unchanged the ARSA-endorsed language on foreign repair stations.

“H.R. 658 will allow repair stations to remain globally competitive and for those in America to lead in the international aviation maintenance market. The legislation protects the 274,000 Americans employed in the industry and ensures the continued viability of its $39 billion annual contribution to the U.S. economy,” said ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod.

For repair stations, the legislation is a major improvement over legislation considered by Congress last year. Among other things H.R. 658:

• Establishes a safety assessment system for foreign repair station inspections. The new plan calls for risk-based inspections and requires the FAA to consider inspection results from foreign civil aviation authorities operating under a maintenance agreement with the United States.

• Subjects all part 145 repair station employees responsible for safety sensitive maintenance functions on part 121 aircraft to be subject to drug and alcohol (D&A) testing consistent with the laws of the country where the repair station is located.

• Ensures effective oversight of noncertificated maintenance without having unintended consequences that would undermined the efficiency of the maintenance and manufacturing industries.

In approving the measure, the committee beat back two amendments that would have undermined free trade in global aviation maintenance services. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) offered an amendment that would have required duplicative biannual inspections of foreign repairs stations. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) put forth an amendment that would have required drug and alcohol inspections for overseas repair stations without regard to other nation’s law, effectively forcing repair stations in countries that prohibit random testing to surrender their certificates.

These amendments would have added new layers of bureaucratic oversight and increased costs for repair stations and airlines while doing nothing to improve safety. Furthermore, they would destroy the system of bilateral aviation safety agreements that allow U.S. aviation maintenance companies to compete internationally and threaten the United States’ $2.4 billion positive balance of trade in maintenance services.

The bill, as passed by the committee, will ensure more effective FAA oversight of foreign and domestic repair stations, allow the industry to build on its outstanding safety record, and ensure the continued competitiveness of the U.S. maintenance industry.

ARSA has been engaged in an intense direct and grassroots lobbying campaign on the repair station provisions in the FAA bill. Additionally, through the Positive Publicity Campaign, ARSA and its members have worked to improve public understanding about the industry’s economic and employment impact in communities around the country.

The bill’s success in the T&I Committee is partially the result of these efforts. However, this is no time to rest on our laurels. The same amendments that surfaced in the committee markup are likely to again arise on the House floor. Repair stations must to reach out to their lawmakers and encourage their support for H.R. 658 as passed by the T&I Committee. It is critical that the aviation maintenance industry keep a united front and remind Congress of the industry’s vitality and importance to the national economy and global civil aviation.

ARSA has made it as easy as possible to urge your lawmakers to support the bill, simply click here to send a quick message to Capitol Hill.

To view the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 click here (the details on foreign repair stations are in Sec. 316). A section-by-section summary prepared by the T&I Committee may be found here.

ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod’s statement on the legislation’s introduction is available here.

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