The results of the 2014 US midterm elections are now tallied (mostly) and it’s clear that Republicans will take over control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House of Representatives.
As with every election, the weeks following are filled with pundits, policy experts, former presidents, current lawmakers, grandma and the family pet predicting exactly what can be accomplished over the next two years. While nobody knows for sure, those of us in the aviation industry do know at least one thing – FAA reauthorisation will be front and center at some point in the next congressional session.
Every few years, Congress is supposed to enact legislation that sets the FAA’s funding levels and policy priorities for years into the future (known as “reauthorisation”). With the current authorisation (the FAA Modernisation and Reform Act) expiring on September 30, 2015 lawmakers will be working toward a new FAA bill in the spring with the hope of completing it before October next year.
During the last FAA reauthorisation cycle, the aviation maintenance industry was forced to combat attempts to enact unnecessary, mandatory inspection requirements regardless of risk; forced drug and alcohol testing of overseas maintenance providers at FAA-certificated foreign repair stations; and an unworkable plan to regulate non-certificated maintenance providers.
These policies jeopardised the US’ bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA) with the European Union and threatened US companies with EASA certification.
We survived, but once a bad idea is unveiled in Washington, it never goes away.
The elections don’t significantly change the likelihood that repair stations will once again come under strict scrutiny.
While Republicans are generally less susceptible to false safety and economic arguments that are spewed against contract maintenance, proposals to suffocate the aviation maintenance industry with unnecessary mandates will undoubtedly reappear. The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) will be prepared to counteract.
However, there are opportunities to play more than defence. The Republican wave was partially based on dissatisfaction with government inefficiency and regulation. Throughout the campaign season, Republicans hammered the Obama administration for its regulatory regime while many Democrats distanced themselves from the president for the exact same reason.
Consequently, it’s expected that FAA reauthorisation proposals next Congress will attempt to make the agency more proficient and resourceful by reforming what is often an inefficient, overburdening, and inconsistent regulatory system.
The aviation maintenance industry should take advantage by advocating for greater due process protections during FAA enforcement actions while pursuing other reforms to ease the regulatory burden on repair stations.
Elections always have consequences; however, the full repercussions aren’t usually crystal clear until well after the campaigning is over. Nonetheless, the FAA reauthorisation process will undoubtedly pose significant threats to repair stations while also providing opportunities for positive reform.
Continued industry engagement is critical to ensure contract maintenance is at the table, not on the menu. ARSA is your voice, but we need continued engagement from the MRO community to succeed.
Daniel Fisher is senior legislative associate at the law firm of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod and Klein, where he also serves as ARSA’s vice-president of legislative affairs.