For the last several years, the FAA has been operating under limited budget extensions passed by congress. Clearly this has made it difficult for the agency to operate. Planning and organization have suffered. Some have viewed this as the reason EASA has appeared to have taken the lead in setting the regulatory framework of the future for global operations.
Currently there is before congress bill HR 2882, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007. This bill, if enacted as is, will provide the budget for the agency through 2011. Because there are critical issues related to the “next generation air transport system” many think this bill will pass. Congress believes it must be a priority for the FAA to achieve certain goals related to the next gen issue for the United States to stay in the forefront of aviation throughout the world.
Within the bill is a controversial issue related to foreign repair station inspections. Rather than summarizing, here is the exact text as it is in the current legislation: Sec. 304. Inspection of foreign repair stations: (a) In General — Chapter 447 (as amended by section 301 of this Act) is further amended by adding at the end the following: Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this section, and annually thereafter, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall: (1) submit to Congress a certification that each foreign repair station that is certified by the Administrator under Part 145 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, and performs work on air carrier aircraft or components has been inspected by safety inspectors of the Administration not fewer than two times in the preceding calendar year; and (2) modify the certification requirements under such part to include testing for the use of alcohol or a controlled substance in accordance with section 45102 of any individual performing a safety-sensitive function at a foreign aircraft repair station, including an individual working at a station of a third-party with whom an air carrier contracts to perform work on air carrier aircraft or components.
This is a major change to the current inspection process for foreign repair stations. Those against this legislation warn that passing it will endanger the current BASA (bilateral aviation safety agreements) with other nations and that EASA will extract significant payback by ramping up its requirements and inspection costs for the EASA-approved stations in this country. And those against this amendment claim the agency has not the work force nor the will to enforce the regulations if passed, resulting in delays and inactions.
On the other hand, I for one think it is right that we should require the same standards for foreign repair stations as we do in this country. This will help level the playing field and enable our 145 shops to more effectively compete for business that is leaving our boundaries. This in turn will save jobs — important jobs that the industry can ill afford to lose during this dramatic financial downturn. Why should shops in this country be under more scrutiny from their PMI than shops outside our country?
Isn’t the real issue a matter of doing what is correct? I welcome comments from both sides of the aisle.