American congressional micromanagement plagues the international aviation community. Lawmakers, many with limited knowledge of the industry, make political decisions usurping the authority of regulatory entities that they created. For repair stations, the FAA reauthorization process is a case study in congressional meddling; a recent Capitol Hill debate delineates well the vast inconsistencies in aviation policymaking.
In recent years, the Obama administration has taken substantial steps to normalize relations with Cuba, including allowing U.S. air carriers to service the island. The House Homeland Security Committee responded by considering legislation to halt commercial fights between the U.S. and Cuba.
The proposal’s proponents, mostly Republicans, have argued that airport security at Cuban airports is not satisfactory (despite a lack of hard evidence). But the bill’s supporters ignore the fact that safe flights have occurred daily for years between Cuba and U.S. allies worldwide. Also, U.S. air carriers have a business incentive to protect their employees, passengers and assets.
Meanwhile, opponents, predominantly Democrats, assert that the minimum requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) should be used to evaluate security at Cuban airports. Paradoxically, some of these same lawmakers refuse to allow ICAO to resolve international aviation MRO issues such as drug/alcohol testing at foreign repair stations.
Ultimately, when politicians ignore regulatory agencies and use safety and security concerns to support their political agendas, aviation policy becomes more about fear than fact.
International aviation is complicated. While complexity is expected, biased congressional management only confuses the situation without furthering aviation safety and security.
Daniel B. Fisher is vice president of legislative affairs at the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.