U.S. Government Funding, FAA Authorization Extended
On Sept. 30, the U.S. Congress passed a stopgap measure averting a federal government shutdown and extending the authorization of the FAA. The agency may operate under this extended authority until Dec. 31, though overall continuing resolution funding will expire on Nov. 17.
“Passage of this short-term measure was the right thing to do,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said. “This will ensure continuity at the FAA and avoid pointless disruptions for the traveling public. But aviation workers and the traveling public deserve an FAA reauthorization bill that will give the agency the steady authority and the tools and resources necessary to be the global leader in aviation safety.”
Providing that authority is a key priority for ARSA and its members. In July, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein praised the “Securing Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act” (H.R. 3935). The bill passed the House of Representatives – Sen. Cantwell’s chamber has yet to make substantive progress on its own legislation – and would mandate a series of personnel, training, management, and oversight improvements the association and its allies have long called for to improve the FAA (see below).
In a Sept. 13 letter, ARSA joined 27 joined 27 organizations including ally trade associations, labor unions, and business advocates in urging Congress to provide “permanent leadership and clear direction” for the American aviation safety regulator. Neither the continuing resolution or extension of FAA authority provides for such leadership or direction, but prevents further severe short term disruption for the aviation community; shutdown threats have already caused upheavals as industry and government personnel diverted resources to planning for work stoppages.
Previous updates on this reauthorization cycle...
July 21, 2023
On July 20, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the chamber’s bill to reauthorize the FAA: the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (H.R. 3935).
In a letter to House leadership on July 14, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein praised the bill and offered the association’s strong support for its passage. Klein noted H.R. 3935 would continue to build on key priorities for the maintenance community and address challenges facing both the FAA and the industry it regulates. As outlined in the letter, if passed into law the bill would:
- Improve FAA personnel training, professionalism, and management.
- Enhance regulatory oversight transparency and consistency.
- Empower the agency to adjust more rapidly to changing circumstances.
- Strengthen the agency’s hand in its relationships with other global aviation authorities.
- Expand efforts already underway to attract a new generation of the technicians to maintain the airworthiness of America’s fleet.
“ARSA is also particularly grateful that the bill addresses the longest standing challenge facing the U.S. maintenance sector: access to Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (i.e., maintenance data),” the letter said.
Despite its general enthusiasm for the bill, ARSA remains on guard against language targeting foreign repair stations. That language has been greatly improved since it was first introduced as a standalone bill by then-T&I Chairman Pete DeFazio in 2019. That previous effort, common to the Oregon Democrat whose policies were generally antagonistic to repair stations, would have imposed considerable burdens on the industry and threatened to punish maintenance providers for FAA inaction on key rulemakings. The provision included in the House bill is much less disruptive, given the maintenance industry’s safety record and the scrutiny foreign repair stations already receive from the FAA, airline customers, and third-party auditors. ARSA continues to believe that the foreign repair station language is a solution in search of a problem.
The legislation had been unanimously approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure committee on June 14. It now heads to the Senate, which is considering its own FAA reauthorization bill.
To read the bill, click here.
To read ARSA’s letter in support of the bill, click here.
To read about the Senate’s effort to reauthorize the FAA, click here.
June 12, 2023
ARSA is still analyzing the 700+ page bill, but on first review it includes many of the association’s regulatory and workforce reauthorization recommendations. Among other things, the bill:
- Requires the FAA administrator to task the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee with identifying ways to improve access to instructions for continued airworthiness (the first time in two decades Congress has addressed the ICA issue).
- Directs the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to audit the Flight Standards and Certification Services regarding the consistency and application of guidance and regulations.
- Directs the FAA administrator to ensure consistency in oversight through audits, more frequent updates to guidance and rules, and better documentation of findings and decisions.
- Improves transparency relating to the agency’s handling of petitions for rulemaking and exemptions.
- Requires the agency to issue or update guidance to clarify the conditions under which a major alteration requires a supplemental type certificate.
- Requires FAA investigations to be completed within two years of issuance of a letter of investigation.
- Encourages the agency to more aggressively pursue cooperation with other civil aviation authorities.
- Reauthorizes, triples funding for, and improves the aviation workforce grant programs created at ARSA’s suggestion in 2018 (and creates a similar new grant program for the aviation manufacturing workforce).
- Creates a new National Center for the Advancement of Aerospace to coordinate workforce development activities between industry, academia, and other stakeholders.
- Establishes an interagency working group to improve transition for military to aviation careers.
- Establishes a working group to examine airman knowledge testing.
While ARSA is pleased the T&I Committee adopted so many of the association’s recommendations, the bill also includes language (that passed the House in a standalone bill last fall) targeting foreign repair stations. While the legislation was greatly improved last spring in committee to be much less disruptive, given the maintenance industry’s safety record and the scrutiny foreign repair stations already receive from the FAA, airline customers, and third-party auditors, ARSA continues to believe that the foreign repair station language is a solution in search of a problem.
Look for more analysis of FAA reauthorization legislation from ARSA in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, review the bill for yourself and contact the association with questions or thoughts.
June 22, 2022
Aviation took center stage on Capitol Hill in recent weeks as the House of Representatives passed legislation to improve government coordination on advanced air mobility and the Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee reported bills impacting the aviation supply chain and repair station oversight.
The House passed the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Coordination and Leadership Act (H.R. 1339/S. 516) on June 14. The bill instructs the U.S. Department of Transportation to create an AAM interagency working group to evaluate, plan, and coordinate efforts regarding the safety, infrastructure, and security of the developing AAM ecosystem in the United States.
“If we want to keep leading the world in aviation, we can’t wait for technologies to come to us. Today, members from both sides of the aisle showed they are ready to take advantage of the next wave of transportation innovation by passing the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act,” Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), the bill’s lead sponsor said.
On June 15, the T&I Committee gave its approval to two additional bills. The first was the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act (HR. 7321), which was completely revised and renamed to address concerns raised by ARSA and other industry groups. The bill was changed as follows:
- New name. The bill is no longer “the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act”. The new name is the “Global Aviation Maintenance Safety Improvement Act.”
- While the new version of the bill still requires reporting by air carriers about where heavy maintenance (C and D checks) is performed, those reports (annually) will be less frequent and the information submitted will be protected as confidential.
- The original version of HR. 7321 required direct certification under part 65 of certain foreign repair station personnel; while the new version still requires personnel certification, it can occur under either part 65 or an equivalent foreign personnel certification system.
- CAT 2 countries are still in the crosshairs, but the implications of falling into CAT 2 status are now less disruptive. The new bill only prohibits new repair station certificate applications from CAT 2 countries and new contracts for heavy maintenance work.
- The new bill still directs the long-awaited drug and alcohol rulemaking to be finished within the year, but rather than punishing industry with a new foreign repair station certification ban if the rulemaking isn’t complete, the new bill bars the FAA from traveling internationally until the rulemaking is done (with exceptions for safety-related travel, travel in the national interest, etc.).
- The bill still allows unannounced inspections, but they are “unannounced” only to the repair station. The bill allows notification of foreign authorities, governments, etc. and those unannounced visits may be risked based and must take place with U.S. international agreements and diplomatic norms.
- The new version of the bill also directs a joint authorities review to examine the question of foreign repair station oversight on a global basis.
To read the full text of the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (ANS), click here.
ARSA still thinks repair station legislation is a solution in search of a problem. The industry’s safety record is exceptional and new, unnecessary mandates on the agency or industry will only divert resources. However, with House T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) retiring at the end of this Congress, this is his last opportunity to move legislation on an issue he’s considered a priority on throughout his career.
Whether or not the bill moves further this Congress (time is short and there’s no obvious vehicle nor Senate companion), given that there are a handful of pro-labor GOP members who support DeFazio’s bill, the T&I Committee’s Republican leadership cannot dismiss the legislation out of hand. Even if Republicans (who have been less susceptible to the false safety arguments used by the bill’s proponents) are running the T&I Committee and aviation subcommittee next year, there is the risk that the legislation could be added as an amendment on a bipartisan basis during a future FAA bill markup.
By negotiating now, the T&I Committee has reframed the conversation and crafted a much more reasonable bill that limits disruption, recognizes our bilateral commitments and minimizes the risks of retaliation against U.S. industry. ARSA will continue to lead lobbying efforts on maintenance issues.
On June 15, the T&I Committee also reported the American Aerospace Supply Chain Resiliency, Innovation, and Advancement Act (H.R. 8049). The bipartisan bill, which is sponsored by the chairman and ranking members of both the T&I Committee and aviation subcommittee, would create a new industry-government task force to investigate supply chain problems and recommend solutions.
ARSA members wishing to support the association’s legislative program should contact ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein for help coordinating a congressional visit to your facility this summer.