Aviation Bills Move on the Hill

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.

The strong bipartisan vote in favor of the bill (380 to 30) puts pressure on the Senate to act on the legislation. To review more information on the bill, click here.

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.

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