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Aviation Policy Panic? Forget Politics

Focus on Rules, Not Politics

Hopefully, we can get past the social-media-fueled debate on whether 2016 was the worst year ever, the dawn of a new age, both, or neither, and focus instead on how we can navigate uncertainty over the next 12 months.

It was uncertainty itself, after all, that Aviation Week’s own Graham Warwick declared the winner of both the UK’s referendum on EU membership and the U.S. presidential election (AW&ST Dec. 26, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017, p. 20). For some, selecting businessman-turned-populist Donald Trump as U.S. commander in chief has ignited nothing short of a public policy panic.

At October’s Strategic Leadership Conference (SLC), ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein led a discussion on “confronting political risk,” during which the SLC’s international participants pitted market expectations against shifting political winds, with a particular eye toward the potential for increased barriers to global trade in aviation products and maintenance services.

“Managing risk—political or otherwise—starts with a frank assessment of your environment and identifying things that could have the most disruptive impact,” Klein said. “ARSA’s own market forecasts predict the global maintenance industry will hit $100 billion in the next decade, but politics can have a funny way of disrupting progress if we don’t stay focused.”

For certificate holders, that focus must be on the rules—the core of compliance and the ultimate source of operational guidance. Before the British and American votes were cast, subtle incursions into the sanctity of the regulations were already underway. The FAA’s “new” compliance philosophy and Safety Assurance System may be intended as tools for sensible, comprehensive oversight, but they threaten to change the game rather than clean it up. Unfortunately, promises of more “critical thinking” have produced more of the “critical” and less “thinking.”

Keep it simple. When everything else—seeking true reciprocity in bilateral agreements, coordinating between design/production and maintenance requirements, respecting international sovereignty—is founded in a plain-language reading of the regulations, then “uncertainty” can be left to the realm of political punditry.

Forget politics. For 2017, resolve to focus on the rules. 

Brett Levanto is vice president of operations at Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein. He provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Inside MRO. 

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