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House Bill Would Address Contract Maintenance Transparency

On Aug. 8, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that will potentially impact ARSA members and their airline customers. Generally, the Safe Landings Act (H.R. 4166) addresses the Air Canada near miss at SFO in 2017 (DeSaulnier’s district is in the San Francisco area), but it also includes other aviation safety-related measures.

Of particular interest, Sec. 5 would create a task force to examine human factors in aviation safety and Sec. 6 directs a new program to investigate and develop new approaches to aviation safety-related data analysis. Sec. 11 requires the DOT IG to review the FAA’s 2017 Flight Standards reorganization and its aviation safety inspection program and to specifically evaluate, among other things, the reorganization of Flight Standards, the implementation of FAA’s compliance philosophy (now a “program”) and the Safety Assurance System (SAS).

Sec. 10 is maintenance-related and is billed as an effort to improve transparency in maintenance contracting. It would require the FAA to update the Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS) implementation guidelines for part 121 certificate holders to include reporting at least every six months “of any failure to follow procedures in aircraft maintenance as well as any major alteration, complete overhaul, or repair of mechanical irregularities of each airframe, engine, propeller, and appliance.”

For each report, certificate holders would also be required to identify the name of the facility and physical location where the work was carried out “for each maintenance provider that performs work.” The FAA would be required to share the reports with the NTSB and would also be required to notify NTSB of any unscheduled landing at a U.S. airport by a part 121 certificate holder “in which a mechanical issue was a factor.” NTSB and FAA would be required to analyze the data “for the purpose of identifying any trends or emerging concerns with any individual air carriers” and share that information with Congress at least annually.

DeSaulnier, the bill’s sponsor, is a third term Democrat who sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (but not the aviation subcommittee). He has a strong background in transportation, having served as the chair of the transportation committees in both the California General Assembly and Senate. He has union ties as a former Teamsters member.

The outlook for his bill is uncertain. Given the press of other business, the fact that DeSaulnier is not a member of the aviation subcommittee nor a member of the Science Committee (to which the bill was also referred), it is unlikely to move through the legislative process on its own anytime soon. Also, at this point it doesn’t appear to have support from any other member of Congress (no cosponsors are noted in the press release). However, transportation policy leaders on Capitol Hill are likely to consider legislative solutions to any problems uncovered by the various Boeing MAX accident investigations. DeSaulnier’s proposal could be rolled into a bigger aviation bill if the Congress decides to take legislative action later this year or next. His bill also has some high-profile support: Sully Sullenberger endorsed it and is quoted in the press release announcing its introduction. The bill is also supported by the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations.

ARSA is still awaiting publication of the official version of the introduced bill to complete analysis of its potential impacts (this initial review is based on a version obtained from Rep. DeSaulnier’s office; the official version will be available here when it is posted). As a general proposition, the association opposes legislation that imposes additional burdens on industry or diverts government resources without any corresponding safety benefit; however, at least some parts of DeSaulnier’s bill do seem to address actual safety concerns, so ARSA is withholding judgment pending further analysis and coordination with allied organizations.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the bill (or experience with Rep. DeSaulnier) by sending a message to ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein at christian.klein@arsa.org.



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