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ARSA: Compromise FAA Bill Takes “Common Sense” Approach to Maintenance Oversight

On Jan. 31, FAA reauthorization conference committee members formally blessed a bipartisan, bicameral agreement authorizing the FAA through fiscal year 2015. The FAA Modernization & Reform Act of 2012 is expected to be approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Obama before the 23rd extension expires on Feb. 17.

“ARSA congratulates House and Senate leaders for reaching agreement on a four-year FAA bill. The Association is pleased to see the hard work of its member pay off in legislation that will allow the aviation maintenance industry to build on its outstanding safety record while remaining competitive in the global marketplace,” said ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod.

“By listening to constituents and taking a common sense approach, Congress avoided the pitfalls threatening repair stations in prior reauthorization bills. The conference report will protect the more than 274,000 Americans employed in civil aviation maintenance.”

The conference report represents a significant victory for the aviation maintenance industry; proving that hard persistent work by ARSA and its members will reap benefits. The FAA Modernization & Reform Act:

  • Requires that part 145 foreign repair stations be inspected annually by FAA safety inspectors in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements. It also allows the FAA to carry out additional annual inspections based on identified risk.
  • Mandates the FAA to create a safety assessment system for part 145 repair stations, a step the FAA and ARSA have been working on for some time.
  • Subjects all part 145 repair station employees responsible for safety sensitive maintenance functions on part 121 aircraft to drug and alcohol (D&A) testing consistent with the laws of the country where the repair station is located.
  • Ensures effective oversight of non-certificated maintenance providers without having unintended consequences undermining the efficiency of the maintenance industry.

The legislation strikes the right balance between safety, oversight, and operational freedom. Last Congress, repair stations were faced with FAA reauthorization legislation that would have required duplicative biannual inspections of all repairs stations and would have mandated drug and alcohol testing 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 prior provisions would have added new layers of bureaucratic oversight and increased costs for repair stations and airlines with no improvement to safety. Most significantly, they would have destroyed the system of bilateral aviation safety agreements that allow U.S. aviation maintenance companies to compete internationally and threatened the United States’ $2.4 billion positive balance of trade in maintenance services.

In October 2010, the ARSA Board of Directors approved a dues increase to ramp up the Association’s efforts on Capitol Hill. These new resources funded an intense lobbying campaign and allowed ARSA to educate lawmakers and congressional staff about the unintended consequences of their proposals. Ultimately, lawmakers adopted many ARSA suggested improvements to the bill’s repair station and non-certificated maintenance language.

ARSA will continue to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Hill until this important legislation is enacted into law. Then we’ll work to continue to build our political visibility and effectiveness for the battles to come.

~~~ posted 2/1/12 ~~~



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