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Secretive FAA Extension Bill Targets Repair Stations

Editor’s Note: To see all of ARSA’s work to help Congress reauthorize the FAA, visit arsa.org/faa-reauthorization.

Late last week, House and Senate transportation leaders agreed to a bill reauthorizing the FAA through Sept. 30, 2017. The agency’s current authorization expires on July 15, making this a “must pass” extension. Unfortunately, lawmakers chose to attach policy riders that include several maintenance-related provisions, leaving the industry in a legislative bind.

Repair stations were not mentioned in a supplemental document released on July 6 detailing the bill’s key provisions, but House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee leadership elected – through secretive, backroom negotiations – to impose unnecessary, burdensome mandates on the international maintenance community and the FAA. The legislation is scheduled to be approved by the House and Senate without amendment before July 15.

Of specific concern to maintenance providers and their customers, the legislation includes:

(1) Foreign drug and alcohol testing.
The legislation reiterates a provision in the FAA Modernization & Reform Act (P.L. 112-95) requiring the FAA issue a proposed rule mandating all part 145 repair station employees responsible for safety sensitive maintenance functions on part 121 air carrier aircraft be subject to an alcohol and controlled substances testing program consistent with the laws of the country in which the repair station is located.  Unfortunately, the new bill includes arbitrary deadlines (requiring a notice of proposed rulemaking within 90 days of enactment and a final rule within a year) that will result in a hurried rulemaking with detrimental effects on the international aviation community, including the U.S. air carriers and the business and general aviation operators that benefit from the safe and efficient worldwide maintenance network.

(2) Mandatory pre-employment background checks.
The legislation mandates the FAA require pre-employment background investigations for all part 145 repair station employees performing safety-sensitive functions on an air carrier aircraft. This would significantly expand current Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirements, lacks a safety and security justification, and is contrary to accepted risk-based oversight principles.

(3) Risk-Based Inspections.
The bill requires the FAA, in the context of its risk-based oversight of foreign repair stations, to focus on facilities performing scheduled heavy maintenance on part 121 air carrier aircraft and ensure the agency accounts for the frequency and seriousness of any corrective actions that part 121 air carriers must implement to aircraft following such work.

As business leaders and citizens, you should be appalled that lawmakers used clandestine discussions to negotiate controversial policy additions to a “must-pass” FAA extension without opportunity for amendment.  ARSA urges you to contact your representatives to express your dissatisfaction with the process and that Congress chose to impose new burdens on the aviation maintenance industry without any safety justification.

For more information contact ARSA’s Vice President of Legislative Affairs Daniel B. Fisher.



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