Print headline: David and Goliath
Late this summer, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) called on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) National Ombudsman Office to look into inequalities imposed on small repair stations. The trade association contends that FAA enforcement of regulations requiring repair stations to obtain maintenance data, coupled with the regulator’s unwillingness to enforce companion regulations that require manufacturers to make them available, unfairly targets small business. An issue, ARSA says, that falls squarely in the ombudsman’s purview.
The trade association has long called for better access to Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA). While most of its advocacy efforts have targeted the FAA or manufacturers, ARSA says that after three decades of trying, it’s taking another route. “Unfortunately, our concerns have failed to elicit serious consideration or any discernible action,” says ARSA Executive Director Sarah -MacLeod. “We’re left with no choice but to use every available avenue to spotlight the agency’s failure to act and to make other agencies in the executive branch and the Congress aware of how FAA’s inequities are hurting small businesses.”
ARSA’s plea to the SBA follows the recent release of an agreement between CFM and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that provides welcome relief for CFM56 and Leap-Series third-party maintenance providers. The Conduct Policies spell out CFM’s aftermarket practices, including its new policy on license fees. IATA hopes the agreement will act as a model for other manufacturers to follow, and therefore reduce anti-competitive practices.
While ARSA praised the agreement as a testament to the power in numbers, MacLeod warns that “aviation safety agencies grappling with maintenance data availability issues should not take this agreement as an answer to their obligations to establish and ensure compliance with basic safety requirements.” ARSA comments submitted to the SBA should serve as a reminder.
This is not the first time ARSA has asked the SBA to weigh in on issues affecting small business repair stations. In 2006, the SBA’s office of advocacy supported the trade association’s challenge to drug and alcohol regulation extending testing requirements to maintenance subcontractors at any tier. ARSA argued that the FAA did not conduct a proper small business impact analysis when it estimated that the new rule would affect only 297 repair station contractors. (ARSA’s estimate was 12,000.) While the rule ultimately went into effect, the agency was compelled through court order to perform the proper analysis.