MRO community to new TSA administrator: help us help you

Daniel Fisher, vice-president of legislative affairs at ARSA, discusses the significance of Peter Neffenger's recent appointment as TSA administrator for the maintenance community.

Whether its airport security, passenger and baggage screening or PreCheck program administration, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is constantly in the spotlight and faces persistent scrutiny from Congress, the media and the flying public.With Peter Neffenger’s recent swearing-in as the agency’s new leader, the former Coast Guard vice admiral has the unenviable task of turning around an agency plagued by public lapses and mishaps.

Until fairly recently, TSA’s new administrator would have merely been interesting news to the aviation maintenance industry. However, the agency adhered to a congressional mandate on 13 January, 2014 by finalising an aircraft repair station security rule (Docket No. TSA–2004–17131; 49 CFR part 1554), which extended TSA’s jurisdiction and responsibilities to all FAA certificated repair stations. Consequently, the person at TSA’s helm has become a more important figure for aviation maintenance companies.

Ultimately, the final repair station security rule was narrowly tailored to the perceived threat: the danger of terrorists stealing an unattended, large (more than 12,500 pounds) aircraft capable of flight. 

There was a dramatic shift from the one-size-fits-all approach originally outlined in the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking to the final mandate’s risk-based methodology.  

Collaboration between the agency and industry has been mostly positive as the rule’s implementation continues.  TSA’s new leadership must remain risk-based focused and committed to industry engagement while understanding that inspections and audits aren’t the reason repair stations emphasise security.

For the repair station community, good security is good business. Repair stations have a strong interest in securing and protecting their customers’ property (and their own) regardless of government mandates or oversight. Operators and airlines will simply not do business with companies that put their valuable business assets (i.e., aircraft) at risk.

The aviation maintenance industry didn’t ask for TSA oversight of repair stations; frankly, neither did the agency, but Congress relented to political pressure and we’re stuck with the current reality. TSA has limited resources and a significant mandate. Through industry and government engagement, the agency can focus its efforts on actual threats and repair stations will maintain operational freedom.

Best of luck to Administrator Neffenger; the aviation maintenance industry is standing by to help make your very challenging job, as easy as possible.

Daniel Fisher is senior legislative associate of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod and Klein, PLC providing client advocacy services, public policy counsel and strategic advice on legislative and regulatory matters.

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