Daniel B. Fisher, vice-president of legislative affairs at ARSA, discusses the complicated U.S.-Cuba aviation relationship and the role of congress in the matter.
American congressional micromanagement is an unfortunate reality for the international aviation community. Lawmakers, most with limited knowledge of the industry’s operations, make political decisions usurping the authority of regulatory entities they created in the first place.
For repair stations the FAA reauthorization process is a case study in congressional meddling, but a recent Capitol Hill debate provides a perfect example of the inconsistencies that broadly dominate aviation policymaking.
In recent years, the Obama administration has taken substantial steps to normalize relations with the Cuban government, including allowing U.S. air carriers to service the island. The House Homeland Security Committee responded recently by considering legislation to halt commercial fights between the United States and Cuba.
The proposal’s proponents, mostly Republicans, argued that airport security at Cuban airports isn’t satisfactory (despite no real evidence or threats to commercial aircraft). Of course, the bill’s supporters ignore the fact that safe flights occur daily (and have been for years) between Cuba and U.S. allies across the world, including Canada, France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Additionally, U.S. air carriers have a clear business incentive to protect their employees, passengers and assets. That means operating at airports with proper security regardless of a government’s regulatory determinations.
Meanwhile, opponents, predominantly Democrats, assert that the minimum requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) should be utilized to evaluate the security at Cuban airports. Perplexingly, some of these same lawmakers asserting ICAO’s “authority,” refuse to allow it to resolve international aviation maintenance issues such as a drug and alcohol testing at foreign repair stations.
Reasonable people can disagree on U.S.-Cuban policy. However, when politicians ignore the determinations of “expert” regulatory agencies and use safety and security concerns to support their political agendas, aviation policy becomes more about fear than fact (See: repair stations, foreign).
International aviation is complicated; sovereign countries, each with their own prerogatives, politics, laws and constituencies, govern the safe and secure transport of people and goods around the world. While complexity is expected, to be micromanaged by a Congress that holds aviation at its political whim only confuses the situation, hindering the industry’s growth and competitiveness without furthering aviation safety and security.