TSA, At Last, Issues Final Repair Station Security Rules

AINmxReports » January 15, 2014
The new TSA rules seek to, among other things, address the risk of stealing an unattended, large (weighing more than 12,500 pounds) aircraft capable of flight. (Photo: Matt Thurber)
January 15, 2014, 12:30 PM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued a final rule covering repair station security. “This action brings an end to the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] ban on certifying new foreign repair stations,” according to the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (Arsa). The new rules are the result of the Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, 10-year-old legislation that effectively banned the FAA from certifying new foreign repair stations until the new rules went into effect. The new rules, which go into effect in about a month-and-a-half, will apply to the 4,067 FAA-approved Part 145 repair stations in the U.S. and 707 outside the U.S.(as of August 2013).

The rules allow the TSA and Department of Homeland Security officials to “enter, conduct inspections and view and copy records.” Repair stations that are on or adjacent to an airport will also be subject to security measures, including designating a point of contact, methods of preventing unauthorized operation of large aircraft capable of flight left unattended and verifying background information of people designated as TSA points of contact and people who have access to keys or means to prevent unauthorized operation of unattended large aircraft.

All repair stations will have to comply with TSA security directives. The TSA will be able to “notify the repair station and FAA of a security deficiency identified by the TSA and provide an opportunity for the repair station to obtain a review of a TSA determination to suspend its operating certification.” However, if the “TSA determines a repair station poses immediate risk to security, the TSA will notify the repair station and the FAA that the certification must be revoked.” Review of this determination will also be allowed.

According to Arsa, the new TSA repair station rules are “significantly narrower in scope from the notice of proposed rulemaking [NPRM] the TSA issued on Nov. 18, 2009.” The fundamental approach is, Arsa noted, “a shift from process-based to outcome-based security. The focus is on the risk of stealing an unattended, large [more than 12,500 pounds] aircraft capable of flight.”

“While Arsa commends the TSA for heeding industry input and narrowing the scope of the regulation, it’s a shame the agency took so long to issue what appears to be straightforward,” said Arsa executive director Sarah MacLeod. “The association looks forward to immediately working with the FAA to begin the process of certifying new foreign repair stations so aviation maintenance companies can continue to create jobs and expand markets.”

Not all aviation groups are happy with the new TSA rules. AFL-CIO president Edward Wytkind criticized the lack of a requirement that repair stations “adopt and implement a security program to help control access to a facility. Instead, limited and weak security measures will apply only to stations that are on or adjacent to an airport.” While most of the rules apply to repair stations on or adjacent to airports, those away from airports won’t have to comply with security measures that involve preventing someone from stealing a large aircraft. “The security challenges raised by the heavy use of contract maintenance are not limited to stations at airports, and Congress clearly did not identify this distinction when it mandated security enhancements,” Wytkind stated.

NBAA wants to know how the new rules apply to repair stations with a “limited” certificate, because many of its member companies use the limited capability for testing specific parts of their aircraft.

According to Tom Hendricks, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association, “NATA is pleased to see the final TSA repair station security rule published. The completion of the final rule lifts the FAA’s moratorium on new foreign repair station certifications, allowing U.S. companies to expand MRO operations globally. This is a great boost to our aviation repair businesses, jobs and our nation’s economy.”

The Aircraft Electronics Association, which represents avionics shops and manufacturers, is also happy with the new TSA rules. “As the international organization representing repair stations in more than 40 countries, we are extremely pleased with the final release of this long-anticipated security regulation,” said AEA president Paula Derks. “We look forward to the ending of the congressionally mandated moratorium on new foreign repair stations, and the AEA will work with both the FAA and TSA to minimize the impact of implementing this new rule as well as streamlining the new FAA repair station approvals.”

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