FAA Extends Key Repair Station Parts-Approval Authority.jpg Sean Broderick/AWST

Expect Shakeup In Congressional Views Of Repair Stations

The U.S. midterm elections are putting new leaders into key congressional aviation committees—including some of whom have criticized foreign repair stations in the past.

Printed headline: Apolitical Theory

Whether you prefer to see the 2018 congressional midterms as a “blue wave” or a “red wall,” what matters is what the maintenance community must do to work with the winners.

Since party control determines committee leadership, the Democrats’ return to the majority in the House of Representatives puts them back in control of each policy jurisdiction. When the 116th Congress arrives in January, those in charge of FAA oversight will be different.

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) will be the next chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) the likely chair of the aviation subcommittee. Based on their past policy positions and DeFazio’s vehement criticism of contract maintenance and foreign repair stations in particular, aviation MRO businesses should expect intense T&I scrutiny of the FAA and industry.

On the Republican side, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is vying to be the T&I Committee’s ranking member. Graves is a pilot and the lead House sponsor of the ARSA-proposed bill (H.R. 5701) that created the new aviation maintenance workforce grant program as part of FAA reauthorization. It is still undecided who will be ranking member of the aviation subcommittee. Although the Senate stayed in Republican hands, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee likely will have a new chairman and a new ranking member. 

Our job is to know key policymakers affecting our work and then help them to oversee the industry in a way that ensures safety while supporting the countless men and women working to keep us all safely in flight. This is where the work starts: Around one-fifth of the House will be new next year. Educating all those newbies (and their staffs) about the aviation maintenance industry will be a massive challenge.

ARSA and its allies will be wearing out the shoe leather on Capitol Hill. You have to get involved, too: Go back to the potential chairmen and ranking members listed above. Recognize any names? Is there an elected official from your state or a state where your company performs work? We need you.

Particularly for those who seem predisposed against the interests of maintenance providers, we must illustrate the deep footprint of the repair station and manufacturing facilities in their states. If Defazio, Larsen and Graves end up heading their parties’ T&I committee delegations, they will be doing so from states that combined to employ more than 22,000 maintenance and production professionals (according to ARSA’s 2018 market assessment). Think about the impact of 22,000 phone calls, letters or requests for facility visits...

We need to collectively educate about our industry’s economic impact and safety contributions. If we build productive relationships on both sides of the aisle, we can achieve beneficial policy goals (e.g., getting the new technician training grant program fully funded). But if we don’t engage, many new members may succumb to negative messages, which may lead to unnecessary new burdens on the industry.

Mark your calendar and plan to be in Washington for ARSA’s 2019 Legislative Day on March 13, an excellent opportunity to get to know newly elected representatives. Let us know if you’d like to plan a facility visit to get an incumbent or freshman congressmen to come see your work first-hand.

Regardless of what you think about this year’s election results, your professional task is clear: Let’s get to work. 

Christian A. Klein, executive vice president and Brett Levanto, vice president of communications, ARSA.

 

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