ARSA asks Feds to review FAA drug/alcohol policy

 - September 21, 2006, 10:01 AM

The cost of having a business aircraft worked on by a certified repair station that also works on airline aircraft may go up as a result of new FAA drug and alcohol testing requirements.

The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has asked a federal court to review the FAA’s recently updated drug and alcohol testing regulations, calling the new rule an unnecessary burden that provides no aviation safety-related benefits.

On March 10 the organization filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking a review of the regulations that extend drug and alcohol testing to subcontractors at any tier of the maintenance process.

Although the FAA calls the new rule a “clarification,” ARSA believes that it is a significant expansion of the current testing regulations because it requires employee testing for thousands of companies that have never been subject to the agency’s drug and alcohol testing regimen. The regulations were published in the Jan. 10, 2006, Federal Register.

An ARSA spokesman said the organization fully supports the FAA’s current drug and alcohol testing program rules. Current regulations require employees performing “safety-sensitive” functions for air carriers, either directly or by contract, to be part of an FAA-approved testing program.

Certificate holders (airlines and repair stations) also must, under the FAA regulations, test and/or inspect all work done by subcontractors at any tier to ensure its airworthiness. Therefore, expanding the drug and alcohol testing requirements to all subcontractors doesn’t add a layer of safety to the maintenance process, ARSA maintains. Rather, it merely adds burdensome requirements to companies that, under the FAA’s own rules, already have their work inspected and approved by FAA-certified repair stations or air carriers.

“Certificate holders, including repair stations, are the safety net in the FAA’s system,” said ARSA executive director Sarah MacLeod. “They are responsible for inspecting and testing their own work and the work of all subcontractors to ensure airworthiness, and they are required to have FAA-approved drug and alcohol testing programs. Expanding the drug-and-alcohol program requirements below the maintenance tier’s certificate-holder level adds only unnecessary costs and complications to a system that already ensures the safety and airworthiness of all work being done on air carrier aircraft.” It can be anticipated that the added cost would be recouped through service rates to all of a repair facility’s customers.

ARSA’s court filing contends that the FAA violated several federal statutes, including the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as well as the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The FAA’s drug and alcohol rules are located in 14 CFR Part 121, Appendix I (drug testing) and Appendix J (alcohol testing). The new rule, extending the testing requirements, is slated to go into effect April 10.