Members of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (Arsa) are breathing a sigh of relief now that lawmakers and the president have finally passed long-term FAA reauthorization legislation. The House and Senate approved the FAA Modernization & Reform Act recently and President Obama signed it yesterday.
“Completion of the FAA bill is a significant victory for the aviation maintenance industry,” said Arsa executive director Sarah MacLeod. “The legislation allows the industry to reliably deliver the highest quality of service in a manner consistent with its unwavering commitment to safety and security. Arsa is pleased that Congress has respected the delicate framework of international civil aviation oversight and passed a bill that will permit the industry to flourish.”
The final reauthorization measure incorporates many legislative changes Arsa recommended throughout the process. “Whenever Congress attempts to micromanage a technical agency and the industry it regulates, nuances are extremely important. Arsa merely provided lawmakers with words that ensured international obligations were recognized. The most obvious are the words that allow acceptance of drug-and-alcohol testing requirements consistent with the sovereign nation’s legal obligations,” MacLeod told AIN.
Congressional approval marks the end of the bill’s long and turbulent journey. It has been more than four years and 23 short-term extensions since the expiration of the nation’s last long-term FAA law. Arsa, and the entire aviation community, has been pushing lawmakers for a new FAA bill to provide the industry with stability.
Daniel Fisher, Arsa’s vice president of legislative affairs, said, “In my opinion, one of the most significant aspects of the FAA bill is how far we have come in a short time. Less than two years ago, the industry was faced with the real possibility that all repair stations were going to be subjected to duplicative twice-annual [at least] inspections by FAA inspectors, regardless of international agreements and risk, and employees at foreign repair stations would be drug and alcohol tested without regard for the laws of the country where the repair station was located. These provisions jeopardized our international agreements, particularly our bilateral with the EU, would have added new layers of bureaucratic oversight and would have increased costs for repair stations and airlines while doing nothing to improve safety.”
Fisher cites the hard work of Arsa, its members and other industry groups educating lawmakers and congressional staff about the unintended consequences of their proposals that forced Congress to take a common-sense approach to aviation maintenance. “The result was it assured our international agreements were respected and allows repair stations in this country to continue to grow and prosper,” he said.
Arsa lauds the legislation, which authorizes $15.9 billion annually for the agency through 2015, as striking a balance among safety, oversight and operational freedom.
“In the final analysis, the FAA reauthorization bill will protect the more than 274,000 Americans employed in civil aviation maintenance. While the association is glad to finish this round of FAA reauthorization, there is still much work to be done in educating all members of Congress about the maintenance industry’s important role in keeping the flying public safe,” MacLeod said.