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U.S. Lawmakers Seek To Strengthen Foreign Repair Station Oversight

A U.S. lawmaker has proposed new legislation that would alter FAA’s oversight of foreign repair stations.

WASHINGTON—The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee has proposed new legislation that would change FAA’s oversight of foreign repair stations.

Unions representing U.S. mechanics and aviation safety inspectors have complained for years about the steady outsourcing of jobs to countries with weaker safety standards, particularly in Asia and South America. Among their top criticisms: FAA cannot inspect foreign facilities without prior notification; and not all countries require adequate background checks and drug tests for safety-critical personnel. At a Transportation Committee hearing in July, Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) international president John Samuelsen said weak oversight and lower safety standards in certain non-EU countries had “created a second tier of safety requirements.”

“For years, I’ve pressed FAA officials to heed the warnings from its own Inspector General and to do more to close the gap between our safety standards and those of foreign repair stations,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the Transportation Committee and lead-sponsor of the legislation. “The bill I’m introducing today does just that by establishing one standard of safety regardless of where the aircraft is maintained. I look forward to moving this bill through Committee quickly, and ultimately getting it signed into law.”

The Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act, were it to become law, would require all foreign repair stations be subject to at least one unannounced safety inspection each year by the FAA. It would also establish minimum qualifications for foreign mechanics, including technical fluency in English, completion of FAA testing and demonstration of certain knowledge and skill levels.

The bill would further mandate all commercial carriers submit detailed maintenance reports each month to FAA, while FAA would create a repository for airlines to report heavy maintenance history by location, along with aircraft registration numbers and other personnel metrics. If FAA does not implement its mandates within one year, the bill would place a moratorium on FAA certification of new foreign repair stations.

“The FAA employees we represent undergo rigorous screening and are trained for months or even years before they are allowed to work on air traffic control systems or inspect aircraft,” said Mike Perrone, national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS). “Why wouldn’t the agency want to insist that our high standards are matched overseas where safety critical functions are concerned?”

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