Opinion: Don’t Punish Industry Because Of Government Inaction

If history is any guide, this year’s FAA reauthorization cycle threatens to catch the global maintenance community in the crossfire between the U.S. Congress and the FAA as lawmakers consider a ban on new repair stations

Printed headline: Foreign Repair Station Ban 2

As American lawmakers begin the process of reauthorizing the FAA, both U.S. and international maintenance providers need to be focused on what is happening on Capitol Hill.

The agency’s current authorization is set to expire on Sept. 30. ARSA got involved early as the House and Senate aviation subcommittees held hearings and engaged stakeholders with the goal of drafting a new, multiyear blueprint for the agency. ARSA is telling the story of a thriving industry that serves (and is served by) a robust international market. The message has been well-received, but underneath congressional goodwill lurks the specter of an old menace: a ban on new foreign repair stations.

In reality, our industry is caught between Congress and the agency. Recent FAA authorization laws directed the agency to impose drug and alcohol testing on foreign repair stations. There are rumblings on the Hill that the lack of progress has some considering “punishing” the FAA (but really the industry) by banning new repair station certificates.

If you think this sounds familiar, you are right. In 2003, Congress passed a law requiring the TSA to issue new repair-station security rules. The TSA repeatedly failed to meet its deadlines, so a ban on new foreign certificates took effect as the result of a 2007 law. It lasted five chaotic years before the rule was finally issued in 2013.

To be fair to the FAA, crafting drug and alcohol rules for foreign repair stations is no easy task. Many of the challenges—both in practical application and international political navigation—were laid out in response to the agency’s 2014 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the subject (there has been no further action).

A ban on new foreign certifications would limit international growth in the maintenance industry and also have practical consequences for U.S. airlines seeking FAA-approved facilities to support global routes. It could lead to retaliation against American companies.

It would be an enormous mistake to punish industry because of the government’s inaction. Let’s make sure Congress does not make this one again.

Christian A. Klein is executive vice president of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. The views expressed are not necessarily shared by Aviation Week.

 

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