As PAMA and NATA prepare to meet in Tampa, a number of issues are on the regulatory hot plate
By Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor
As the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) gear up for their AS3 - Aviation Services & Suppliers Supershow in Tampa, FL, a number of issues are at the forefront.
Those issues affecting both organizations include Part 145 and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's ergonomics standard. As PAMA welcomes its new president, the organization is in the midst of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)regarding adulterated samples in drug testing. At the top of NATA's agenda are the American Aviation Access Initiative's (AAAI) and fractional ownership, along with regulatory issues regarding flight/duty time, flight training trade barriers, and airplane rides.
Dissecting Part 145
PAMA filed comments on the NPRM regarding Part 145 primarily because of the impact on the individual maintenance professional, says Doug McNair, technical manager for PAMA. The organization opposes particular elements dealing with exposure to individual personal liability, significant background checks, and recordkeeping. "The primary reason we proposed these things was that the requirement to demonstrate various levels of achievement or background weren't supported by record keeping or tracking this information to begin with. You had to prove things that you had no data or basis to demonstrate," he says.
McNair suggests that if individuals are required to demonstrate their experience throughout their career, then some type of record tracking requirement is needed.
Another area of concern for the organization regards new training and qualification requirements imposed by the Part 145 rule. McNair states that PAMA's dissatisfaction is due to no training or qualification standards for the requirements. "You have to demonstrate certain levels of proficiency but there are no standards to which you would obtain that," he explains. McNair offers the example of one statement which says aerospace maintenance professionals must be tested. McNair and others question what the maintenance professionals are supposed to be tested for.
These questions, McNair indicates, are one of the reasons for miscommunication in the industry regarding these issues. "That rings very hollow and just adds to the bureaucracy of the business and the misinterpretation of and inconsistent interpretation by the FAA and the industry. No one would really know when they've achieved the right level," he states. Other standards from groups like OSHA or other occupational standards could be adopted instead, McNair suggests.
Though PAMA's main concern with Part 145 focuses on areas that clearly affect the individuals, McNair said all comments seemed to be similar from all groups effected by this rule. "Even though we all have different motivations, the bottom line was not too far off."
Drug testing ethics
Though random drug testing is part of the job for many aviation employees, as regulated by the Department of Transportation, a few loopholes exist in the rule, in particular regarding adulterated samples, which could cost employees their jobs.
"An adulterant is anything that turned up in a sample that shouldn't be there," states McNair. He explains that adulterants are typically used to mask or cover up something in a sample, but can also be introduced unintentionally and through the handling process.
According to Jason Dickstein, attorney and president of the Washington Aviation Group, the Department of Transportation's drug testing rule requires that anyone who conducts maintenance or any other safety-sensitive work for an air carrier, Part 121 or 135, is required to be tested for drugs. "Under the regulations, if you have a confirmed positive, meaning you can demonstrate that there are in fact drugs in the specimen, then there are certain actions that must be taken," Dickstein explains. The employer has the choice to fire the individual or set up some form of a rehabilitation program, he explains. Following rehabilitation, a second confirmed positive would result in a job loss. "It's a two strikes and you're out system," Dickstein states.
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