SAMSA – Action Center
On March 31, 2022 House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) reintroduced legislation he first proposed in 2019 to undermine the efficiency of contract maintenance. The legislation is a top priority for airline mechanics unions, which feel threatened by the safety gains and cost savings associated with airlines’ use of repair stations, particularly those outside the United States.
ARSA led the effort to defeat DeFazio’s “Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act” (SAMSA) in the last Congress and will continue to push back on this (and any) legislation that would unduly burden the aviation industry and impact the flying public with no basis in safety.
As it was in 2019, SAMSA is “policymaking at its worst.” What can you do to help prevent it from becoming law? Review the information below and get engaged!
The information provided on this page is offered as a resource for industry members, policymakers, the media and others to provide information about the aviation maintenance industry, ARSA’s objections to the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act (SAMSA) and ways to support the association’s campaign to prevent the bill from becoming law.
Why is ARSA opposed to SAMSA?
ARSA is leading a coalition of aviation industry trade associations and companies opposed to SAMSA because the bill would cause significant disruptions for the global aviation maintenance industry, U.S. air carriers, passengers and cargo shippers, general aviation operators and aerospace manufacturers.
If the bill becomes law, the more than 1,500 U.S. repair stations with foreign approvals and their employees would almost certainly be targets of retaliation by foreign authorities. Foreign repair stations would be subject to new and unnecessary requirements that do nothing to further safety. U.S. air carriers and their maintenance vendors would be subject to burdensome new recordkeeping requirements. U.S. commercial and general aviation operations outside the country would be disrupted because of a shortage – or complete lack of – FAA-certificated maintenance facilities in destination countries. U.S. manufacturers seeking to provide product support in growing foreign markets would be prevented from obtaining FAA certification at those overseas facilities.
The legislation also makes no sense from an economic standpoint. The U.S. aviation maintenance industry is experiencing a historic technician shortage that threatens to undermine the efficiency of the entire American aviation system. Were SAMSA to become law and the work performed overseas brought back to the United States, there would not be enough people to do it and problems associated with the worker shortage would be compounded.
Additionally, FAA resources – already stretched thin – would be diverted to activities with little or no safety benefit. And if the FAA fails to complete a large (and virtually impossible) laundry list of tasks within one year of the bill’s enactment, the agency would be barred for certificating new facilities outside the United States.
What organizations are opposed to SAMSA?
The following organizations have signed coalition letters to Congress opposing SAMSA:
|Aeronautical Repair Station Association
Aerospace Industries Association
Aircraft Electronics Association
Airlines for America
Aviation Suppliers Association
|General Aviation Manufacturers Association
International Air Transport Association
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Air Carrier Association
Regional Airline Association
To review the group’s most-recent letter to the Hill, which was sent on May 27, click here.
What would SAMSA do?
Among other things, SAMSA includes:
- A ban on certification, recertification and use by part 121 air carriers of repair stations in countries the FAA has designated through the International Aviation Safety Assessment program as Category 2.
- A requirement the FAA conduct unannounced inspections of all foreign repair stations at least once annually.
- Requirements that part 121 air carriers broadly disclose details about their contracted maintenance.
- New FAA certification requirements for individuals working at foreign repair stations that perform maintenance for part 121 air carriers (supervisory personnel, personnel authorized to approve for return to service and persons performing inspections).
- A requirement that personnel who are directly in charge of work or who are responsible for authorizing for return to service be personally present when the work is performed or perform the work themselves.
- A ban on the issuance of new foreign repair station certificates if the FAA does not complete the implementation of these new requirements as well as the previously directed drug and alcohol testing rulemaking for foreign repair station personnel AND a new rulemaking directed in this bill to require security assessments of foreign repair station employees.
The full text of the bill is here.
What is SAMSA’s status?
SAMSA was introduced in the 117th Congress on March 31, 2022 by House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and 13 cosponsors. No hearings have been scheduled on the bill.
DeFazio originally introduced the bill in the 116th Congress on Nov. 15, 2019. The House T&I Committee approved the bill by a vote of 39 to 19 on Nov. 20 without holding any hearings on the issues raised in the bill or giving industry any meaningful opportunity to provide input and respond to committee members concerns.
No Senate companion version was introduced in the 116th Congress, nor has one been introduced in the current Congress. For more on the status of the bill, including recent official actions and a list of cosponsors, click here.
|Full Chamber Vote||—||—|
What is the outlook for SAMSA in the 117th Congress?
The path forward for the legislation is uncertain. The airline mechanics unions opposed to contract maintenance and who support the bill are well organized and have strong allies in Chairman DeFazio and pro-labor members of both parties. Chairman DeFazio is retiring at the end of the current Congress in Jan. 2023, which may rally SAMSA supporters to get the bill passed before losing their strongest ally.
However, no T&I Committee hearing has been scheduled. There has also been no word about a potential Senate companion bill – a sign that the legislation is unlikely to move quickly. Another factor is the looming mid-term election in November, which will force members of Congress to spend more time in their states and districts campaigning and limits floor time available to consider legislation.
There’s an old adage in politics: Run unopposed or run scared. Regardless of how political insiders handicap SAMSA’s prospects, the industry has an obligation to stand up, get engaged and educate lawmakers about how disruptive this bill would be.
How would SAMSA impact the aviation industry?
Impact on U.S. repair stations and employees:
- Potential retaliation from foreign authorities (e.g., reciprocal certification ban, direct foreign certification of employees).
- Business operation disruptions for U.S. MRO companies with overseas operations (e.g., no Foreign Repair Stations in CAT 2 countries, no new Foreign Repair Stations).
- Diversion of resources to data gathering/generation to support customer reporting.
Impact on U.S. air carriers and general aviation operators:
- Diversion of resources to data gathering and reporting for air carriers.
- Shortage of maintenance services from inadequate capacity in United States and restricted growth of capacity overseas.
- Inability to obtain maintenance in CAT 2 countries, which will require suspension of operations or sending mechanics on every flight.
- Perennial uncertainty surrounding ability to obtain maintenance services outside the United States, since other countries may be downgraded to CAT 2 status.
Impact on U.S. aviation manufacturers:
- Inability to open foreign FAA-certificated repair stations (FRS) to support customers in emerging markets.
- Inability to operate existing FRS and open new FAA-certificated facilities in CAT 2 countries.
Impact on FAA-certificated repair stations outside the United States:
- Costs of direct FAA certification of employees.
- Immediate loss of U.S. heavy maintenance customers and eventual permanent loss of U.S. certificate (esp. CAT 2 countries).
- Uncertainty surrounding ability to maintain certificate and serve U.S. customers if country is at risk of becoming CAT 2.
- Diversion of resources to data gathering/generation to support customer reporting.
- Inability to open new FAA-certificated facilities.
How can I help defeat SAMSA?
Personal engagement to prevent enactment of SAMSA and protect the industry is critical. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Send a note to your representative and senators expressing your opposition to the bill. Visit ARSA’s grassroots action site (sponsored by Aircraft Electric Motors).
- Send a letter to the editor of your local paper objecting to SAMSA. Click here for editorial page contact information for publications in your state.
- If you’re a non-U.S. company, contact your embassy in Washington, D.C. and urge your diplomats to engage on this issue.
- Tell your colleagues at non-member companies to join ARSA. We are the voice for the industry. The more members we have, the more effective advocates we’ll be for you. Don’t be shy about sending us member recruitment suggestions.
- Host a member of Congress at your facility to SHOW them what your company and colleagues do. ARSA is standing by to help.
- Learn more about how ARSA PAC supports our advocacy efforts on your behalf and give us permission to ask for your support (Note: ARSA accepts PAC contributions only from owners and senior executives of U.S. member companies that have given written permission to be solicited in accordance with the Federal Election Campaign Act. This is not a solicitation.)
Whom should I contact for more information about ARSA’s opposition to SAMSA?
ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein is the association’s registered lobbyist and managing ARSA’s efforts to defeat SAMSA. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 703.739.9543 Ext. 106.
What is “contract maintenance”?
Under international law, the state of registry of an aircraft controls the maintenance. U.S.-registered aircraft and related engines, propellers, appliances and component parts of such aircraft must be maintained by “persons” approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (generally, mechanics and repairmen, air carriers and repair stations).
It would be inconceivably expensive and inefficient for airlines to have all the technology and knowledge in-house to maintain every part of every aircraft so they often partner with independent business certificated as repair stations by the FAA. Repair stations are highly specialized, enabling a better return on investment in facilities, technology, training, etc.
Repair stations help reduce maintenance costs while meeting the high safety standards required by air carriers and the aviation safety rules. The increased use of contract maintenance over the past several decades has coincided with the safest period in the history of U.S. civil aviation.
How big is the maintenance industry?
There are more than 4,000 FAA-certificated repair stations throughout the United States, approximately 80 percent of U.S. repair stations are small and medium-sized entities. U.S. repair stations employ more than 182,000 Americans. By comparison, there are approximately 27,000 airline mechanics in the United States.
There are more than 900 FAA-certificated repair stations outside the United States that provide services to U.S. commercial and general aviation operators. Similarly, more than 1,500 U.S. repair stations are approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to work on EU-registered aviation products and articles. Many U.S. repair stations also hold approvals from other aviation authorities, allowing them to serve a global customer base. ARSA survey data suggests that, on average, one third of a U.S. repair station’s gross revenue is derived from foreign customers if that repair station holds a foreign certificate.
Do repair stations outside the United States work to different standards from domestic facilities?
Whether inside or outside the United States, FAA-certificated repair stations must meet the same certification standards, including having a repair station manual, a quality control manual, necessary housing and facilities, a training program, appropriate equipment, personnel and technical data.
All individuals working on U.S. registered aircraft and related articles, wherever located, work to the same regulatory standards. When working for a U.S. air carrier, all persons must follow the air carrier’s maintenance program. Airlines are always responsible for airworthiness and ensuring that, no matter who does it, maintenance is performed according to the airline’s maintenance program and FAA regulations. Airlines closely scrutinize and regularly audit their contract maintenance providers to ensure compliance.
How does the FAA currently regulate repair station personnel?
FAA rules prescribe specific personnel requirements for all repair stations (wherever they are located), including having a sufficient number of employees with training or knowledge and experience to ensure all work is performed in accordance with FAA standards. Repair stations are also required to have an FAA-approved training program to assess the abilities of all employees based on training, knowledge, experience or practical tests.
While aviation maintenance professionals may hold FAA certificates allowing them to work under their own authority, most individuals working in the aviation sector in the United States are not required to be individually certificated. In fact, the whole point of a repair station or air carrier having authority to perform maintenance is that the company must ensure it employs knowledgeable and capable personnel, regardless of whether the individual holds an FAA-issued mechanic certificate.
While the FAA does not certificate mechanics outside the United States, the agency’s regulations prescribe parallel requirements for supervisory personnel and those authorized to approve an article for return to service at foreign repair stations. For example, the latter must be trained in or have 18 months practical experience with the methods, techniques, practices, aids, equipment, and tools used to perform the work, be thoroughly familiar with FAA regulations, be proficient in the use of the various inspection methods, techniques, practices, aids, equipment, and tools appropriate for the work and understand, read, and write English.
- Dec. 17, 2019 coalition letter to House leadership opposing SAMSA
- Nov. 18, 2019 coalition letter to House T&I Committee leaders opposing SAMSA
- ARSA white Paper: Myths and Facts about Aviation Maintenance
- ARSA briefing paper: SAMSA: Negative Impacts on Aviation Stakeholders
- ARSA briefing paper: SAMSA: Section-by-Section Analysis
- ARSA briefing paper: Facts about Contract Maintenance
- Recording of Dec. 5, 2019 ARSA webinar about SAMSA
- Dec. 5 ARSA webinar PowerPoint presentation about SAMSA
- ARSA analysis: U.S. repair stations with foreign approval (state-by-state overview)
- ARSA/Oliver Wyman analysis: Aviation maintenance industry state-by-state employment and economic footprint
- 14 CFR part 145 (FAA repair station regulations)
Selected media coverage of contract maintenance issues
- “Another Effort to Close Down Foreign Repair Stations – INOPPORTUNE +/Or REDUNDANT?”, Sandy Murdock, JDA Journal, April 12, 2022.
- “The Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act is Essential Reform”, Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, PR Newswire, March 31, 2022.
- “Foreign Aircraft Repair Stations Return to Hill Spotlight”, Sam Mintz, Politico Morning Transportation, Nov. 27, 2019.
- “H.R. 5119 is ‘Policymaking at its Worst’”, AviationPros, Nov. 22, 2019.
- “Teamsters Support Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act”, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, PR Newswire, Nov. 22, 2019.
- “House Panel Approves Controversial Foreign Mx Bill”, Kerry Lynch, AINonline, Nov. 21, 2019.
- “New Bill Would Overhaul FAA’s Oversight of Non-US Repair Stations”, Jon Hemmerdinger, Flight Global, Nov. 20, 2019.
- “Boeing 737 MAX Fiasco Brings New Scrutiny to ‘Insane’ Gap in Oversight of Foreign Repair Stations”, Ted Reed, Forbes, Nov. 20, 2019.
- “Aviation Organizations Oppose Foreign Maintenance Oversight Bill”, Katie O’Connor, Avweb, Nov. 20, 2019.
- “House Foreign Repair Station Bill Draws Industry Fire”, Kerry Lynch, AINonline, Nov. 19, 2019.
- “Are Offshore Aircraft-Repair Stations the New Normal?”, Steve Appleford, Capital & Main, July 30, 2019.
- “Airline Labor to Regulators: Why Do Foreign Repair Stations Have Lower Standards?”, Tom Reed, Forbes, July 2, 2019.