FAA temporarily halts foreign repair station certifications

 - August 29, 2008, 1:45 PM

If you’ve ever suspected that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing in Washington, Congress and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are doing little to dispel that notion.

On Aug. 3, 2007, the President signed Public Law 110-53, the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, implementing some of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. It included some well publicized mandates, such as inspecting all air and sea cargo entering the U.S. One of the lesser known provisions gave the TSA one year to create new security rules for foreign repair stations. The agency failed to do so, forcing the FAA to halt foreign repair station certification procedures effective last month.

The FAA made it clear that the problem won’t affect a repair station that submitted an application before August 3, the date on which it had to halt certification. Those applications will be processed in accordance with FAA Order 8000.92, AFS Certification Service Oversight Process (CSOP), subject to “available resources.” The action also does not affect the renewal process of an existing FAR 145 foreign repair station.

The FAA has said it will continue to accept applications received after the deadline but they will be in a holding pattern until the TSA finds the time to comply with the law, which could take quite a while.

TSA Administrator Kip Hawley testified at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting 10 days before the deadline that there was a proposal in
the works and it was moving its way through the system. Hawley said he did not know when the proposal might be released, let alone enacted. He told the committee he thought that the Office of Management & Budget was reviewing it.

Agency Continues Work on Certification Backlog

If there is any saving grace it is that the FAA has a huge backlog of repair station certifications in its international field offices and, from an operational perspective, the hang-up probably won’t be noticeable for a year or more as it processes the pre-existing applications. That might give the TSA sufficient time to resolve the issue and the stack of post-August 3 applications will move forward in a timely manner.

Sarah MacLeod, executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, told AIN that her disappointment extends beyond the delay. “I am more concerned that legislation punishing the industry for agency inaction is a horrible precedent.”

Responding to the notion of some legislators that industry should put pressure on the process to hurry it up, MacLeod said, “I find it ironic that Congress believes the industry has more influence with the agency than the lawmakers. If an industry does have too much influence, as we’ve been accused of with the FAA, both the agency and the industry get punished…. Congress should recognize that the TSA has more pressing issues than overseeing domestic and foreign repair stations.”