House Foreign Repair Station Bill Draws Industry Fire

 - November 19, 2019, 8:31 PM

Nearly a dozen industry associations this week voiced strong opposition to a new bill intended to strengthen international repair station oversight, saying it would, instead, threaten jobs, hurt small businesses, disrupt air travel, and weaken the competitiveness of the U.S. aerospace industry. The associations—including the Aeronautical Repair Station Association and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, among others—wrote those objections in a letter to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee leadership in response to the November 15 introduction of The Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act.

T&I chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) introduced the measure, saying, “We’re at an unfortunate moment in our aviation system’s history where safety standards are being questioned, and the bottom line is safety has to be the number one priority.”

He added he has pressed FAA officials for years to do more to close the gap on foreign repair station safety standards. “The bill I’m introducing today does just that by establishing one standard of safety regardless of where the aircraft is maintained.”

The legislation, which was unveiled with seven co-sponsors, requires unannounced inspections at foreign repair stations; minimum qualifications for mechanics and others working on U.S.-registered aircraft at foreign repair stations (including FAA certification for mechanics and supervisors); data analysis; moratoriums on new FAA-certified foreign repair stations until the bill is implemented; and a repository of heavy maintenance history.

Industry groups, however, called the legislation unnecessary given scrutiny repair stations already receive from U.S. and foreign regulators and expressed concern that the legislation would punish the industry if the FAA fails to comply. Further, they said, “The bill mandates onerous new record-keeping and reporting requirements that do nothing to help focus regulators on safety-critical information and will simply overwhelm them with irrelevant data,” adding some of the requirements would be impossible to implement.

They also expressed concern about the threat to international cooperation. “Passenger and cargo airlines and general aviation operators that rely on FAA-certified facilities around the globe will be unable to get their aircraft serviced at foreign destinations,” they said, expressing the additional fear that U.S. repair stations could also be vulnerable to losing approval from foreign aviation authorities.

Also signing the letter were the Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Electronics Association, Airlines for America, Aviation Suppliers Association, Cargo Airline Association, International Air Transport Association, Modification and Replacement Parts Association, National Air Carrier Association, and Regional Airline Association.

While those organizations opposed the bill, several unions and other organizations backed it, including the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, Consumer Reports, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, National Consumers League, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, and the Transport Workers Union of America Transportation Trades Department.