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Unions Organize: Prepare for Anti-Repair Station Legislative Blitz

With much fanfare and famous protagonists present on June 4, aviation maintenance unions and consumer advocate “allies” announced intentions to introduce legislation targeting contract maintenance and raising airline costs.

The alleged purpose of the so-called Airline Passenger Safety Bill of Rights is to “address growing concerns about eroding airline safety standards caused by outsourced aircraft maintenance and lax FAA oversight.”

The proposal was rolled out at the Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Summit presented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and organized by the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) in Washington, D.C. (More coverage of the event is here and a video of the full Summit is available here.)

To ensure the maintenance industry’s views were represented and in furtherance of collaborative efforts on workforce issues, ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod participated in a panel discussion. MacLeod voiced ARSA’s opposition to the proposal, which would (among other things) guarantee U.S. airline passengers the “right” to only fly on aircraft maintained by FAA-certificated mechanics in the United States, require airframe maintenance facilities to maintain a 2:1 ratio of certificated mechanics to non-certificated personnel and require airlines to publish online at least one year’s maintenance history for each aircraft (including percentages of airline vs. outsourced maintenance personnel and mechanics vs. non-certificated technicians as well as “other critical data to be determined”).

While much of the proposal is not new, the fact that unions and well-known “consumer advocates” are working together is a novel development (Ralph Nader keynoted and Mary Schiavo closed the summit).

The legislation may not pass the laugh test for those working in the maintenance industry, but that doesn’t mean it won’t gain traction on Capitol Hill. Given criticism of the FAA in the wake of the recent Boeing 737 MAX accidents and the fact that the new Democratic leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is hostile to contract maintenance, the aviation policy environment is more volatile than usual and ripe for fear-driven proposals to take hold.

It’s unclear whether TWU and BTC have identified potential congressional sponsors for their bill. However, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who spoke at the summit, has voiced his intentions to reintroduce legislation requiring airlines to publicize their maintenance vendors.

ARSA will continue to educate the media and Congress on the laws and facts about contract maintenance in the aviation industry and will keep its members informed when any hostile legislation is introduced.

In the meantime, the association strongly urges repair stations to invite members of Congress to visit their facilities this summer. The best political defense is a strong offense; hosting representatives and senators is a great way to educate about the industry’s economic impact, safety record and vital importance to American interests around the world. ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein is standing by to assist members in identifying invitees, coordinating invitations, developing visit agendas and providing briefing materials.



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