Curtain Falls on ARSA’s 2011 Legislative Day and Annual Repair Symposium

By all accounts, ARSA’s 2011 Legislative Day and Annual Repair Symposium were a great success. ARSA members from across the globe came together for the aviation maintenance industry’s annual must-attend event on March 31-April 2 in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA.

Events kicked off with Legislative Day on March 31. In a fortunate coincidence, this year’s Legislative Day occurred as the House of Representatives was debating the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (H.R. 658), making this year’s event perhaps the most exciting in its history.

The day began with an update from House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) at the Ritz Carlton in Arlington, VA. Chairman Petri provided attendees with an update on the House’s progress in advancing FAA reauthorization legislation and promised an end to the ongoing series of extensions that have plagued the aviation industry since the current law, VISION 100, expired in 2007. Petri also stressed the importance of active participation from ARSA members in the legislative process, telling the crowd that lawmakers take constituent comments under serious consideration when evaluating proposed legislation.

After the Chairman’s remarks, more than 60 ARSA members boarded buses to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress. While legislative attendees attended meetings in the offices lining Independence and Constitution Avenue, the Association held a briefing for congressional staff to familiarize them with the aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul industry. ARSA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Daniel Fisher explained the Association’s legislative priorities and Kevin Michaels, of AeroStrategy, the global aviation consultancy that conducts ARSA’s economic research, informed attendees of the industry’s national economic footprint.

On April 1, ARSA’s 2011 Annual Repair Symposium officially got underway with a keynote address from FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan. Gilligan commented on the FAA’s ongoing efforts to improve the agency’s consistency and other items important to the MRO industry. She mentioned ARSA’s ongoing legal challenge of the 2006 rule that expanded drug and alcohol testing to subcontractors at any tier, saying the FAA “goofed” in its failure to respond to the court’s order to perform a regulatory flexibility analysis and encouraged members to submit comments to the March 8 supplemental regulatory flexibility determination. She also spoke about the congressional prohibition on certification of new foreign repair stations, Safety Management Systems, and the Airworthiness Directives Aviation Rulemaking Committee (AD ARC).

Following Gilligan’s address, ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod led a maintenance panel featuring FAA Aircraft Maintenance Division Manager Carol Giles and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Organization Department Head Wilfried Schulze. The discussion centered on the recent exchange of diplomatic notes that will usher in a new Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) between the U.S. and the EU.

ARSA Managing Director and General Counsel Marshall Filler was then joined by FAA Director of Aircraft Certification Dorenda Baker and EASA Certification Deputy Director Frédéric Copigneaux for a conversation on certification issues. This panel looked at policies and procedures governing the design and production of civil aviation articles, with significant time devoted to the implications of the new EU/U.S. BASA and an update on FAA rulemaking.

Following the lunch break, ARSA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Daniel Fisher and Executive Vice President Christian Klein led attendees in a discussion about issues facing repair stations on Capitol Hill and the importance of ARSA member participation in the political process. Rep. Richard Hanna’s (R-NY) Legislative Assistant Andrew Brady shared ways in which ARSA members could effectively communicate with their congressional delegation. Perform Air Vice President of Engineering Ray Berg rounded out the panel and presented insights into how his company has effectively engaged in the political process to substantial advantage.

The next panel, “The Lion’s Den”, was the Symposium’s most controversial. Klein was joined by former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker and Frontline Producer Rick Young in a discussion on how the industry is perceived by and interacts with the media. Young produced the Frontline segment “Flying Cheaper” that aired in January and painted the aviation maintenance industry as skirting the fringe of safety standards. The production was screened for attendees and afterward, panelists discussed how the piece came to be and ways repair stations can improve their relationship with the media. Young warned that balance is not something the media actively seeks, telling attendees that shutting the media out only ensures that your side of the story is not told. Klein used the conversation to highlight the active role ARSA is taking, through its Positive Publicity Campaign (PPC), to improve relations between the maintenance industry and the media and the importance of a positive relationship in shaping public opinion.

After a break, those in attendance heard from MacLeod and ARSA Managing Director & General Counsel Marshall Filler about the status of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) repair station security rule that is preventing the certification of new foreign repair stations. ARSA Vice President of Quality Paul Hawthorne then led the day’s final panel with a presentation on the Aviation Alliance Insurance Risk Retention Group (AAIRRG). Featuring Polaris Enterprise Group President Cameron Crebs, BMS Intermediaries Senior Vice President Frank Hernandez, and SONICO President Bill Perdue, those in the crowd were told about the substantial insurance savings AAIRRG is bringing to repair stations.

The Symposium’s second day started with a regulatory review from Marshall Filler. Repair station representatives in attendance heard about recent part 21 amendments, the new part 110 rules and recent rule changes and new regulations from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia. Filler concluded the presentation with a look at FAA guidance currently under development.

Paul Hawthorne then guided a discussion with Don Arendt from the FAA Flight Standards Certification and Surveillance Division and Bunty Ramakrishna from Delta Airlines on the SMS Part 5 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The conversation focused on the timeline for the release of the new rule, and how air carriers are implementing and interfacing their SMS with contract maintenance vendors.

The sessions came to a close with a panel on tool and test equipment calibration led by ARSA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Assistant General Counsel Craig Fabian. Fabian was joined by National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Statistical Engineering Division Chief Mathematical Statistician Will Guthrie and NIST Material Measurement Laboratory Associate Director for Measurement Services Robert L Watters. Panelists learned how NIST views calibration and calibration standards to learn how their repair stations can stay compliant with NIST directives.

The Symposium ended with the member luncheon featuring a state of the Association address delivered by ARSA President Dr. Hans-Jürgen Loss of Lufthansa Technik highlight the ARSA’s recent achievements and future goals.

ARSA staff would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s event. Mark your calendars for next year’s Legislative Day and Repair Symposium, taking place March 14-16, 2011 at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia.

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