ARSA Update: FAA Reauthorization Has Significant Global MRO Implications

Two amendments filed with the FAA reauthorization could have altered the international maintenance landscape.

ARSA UPDATE

Every few years, Congress is tasked with reauthorizing the FAA, setting the agency’s funding levels and its policy priorities for the coming years. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge on Capitol Hill about the global aviation system and a susceptibility to false safety and security arguments creates a dangerous combination for repair stations and their customers worldwide.

As the U.S. Senate considered its FAA reauthorization bill this year, two amendments were filed that would have altered the international maintenance landscape. While the proposals were left out of the final bill (thanks to engagement by ARSA and its members), the fact that they were seriously considered should serve as a warning.

One amendment would have prevented the certification of new foreign repair stations for “any country that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Not only is it unclear how an aviation safety agency would make such a determination, the proposal ignored the fact that foreign repair stations are subject to the same safety and security standards as domestic Part 145 certificate holders regardless of country or location.

All certificated repair stations must demonstrate to the FAA or other civil aviation authorities that they possess the housing, facilities, equipment, personnel, technical data and quality-control systems necessary to perform work in an airworthy manner. An air authority can reject or rescind a repair station certificate if the company is unable to meet the same or equivalent safety and security standards as domestic facilities.

FAA-certificated foreign repair stations are overseen by government agencies, airline customers and third-party auditors, as well as the repair stations’ own quality assurance staff. New approvals should be based on strict regulatory requirements, not on location.

The other amendment would have banned the FAA’s certification of all foreign repair stations if the agency fails to complete a foreign drug and alcohol-testing rule within one year and ensure pre-employment background checks are completed for foreign and domestic repair stations maintaining air carrier aircraft within 180 days. Congress would have essentially set up the FAA for failure, forcing it to complete rulemakings in an arbitrary time period or else be prohibited from issuing foreign repair station certificates. A lose-lose situation like that should be rejected outright on public policy grounds.

The amendment also violated U.S. bilateral aviation safety agreements, government-to-government arrangements that enhance efficiencies and prevent duplicative oversight. Prohibiting the FAA from certificating new foreign repair stations violates these pacts (particularly with the EU) and hinders the U.S. government’s ability to enter into new accords. Other countries could impose a reciprocal ban preventing repair stations in the U.S. from gaining approval from foreign civil aviation authorities—something vital to many domestic maintenance providers—or force American companies to pay significantly increased certification costs. This would have a detrimental impact on U.S. companies, particularly small businesses, which would be unable to service international customers and cannot easily absorb increased certification expenses. 

Daniel B. Fisher is vice president of  legislative affairs at the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.

Stay on top of the reauthorization process and its impact on the global maintenance industry at arsa.org/faa-reauthorization

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