Industry leaders remain hopeful that the long overdue repair station security rule will finally shake free from its White House review in the next few weeks, but they are still calling on newly confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make sure that happens.
Congress 10 years ago directed the Transportation Security Administration to adopt new repair station security regulations, and, after years of inaction, banned FAA from certifying any new foreign repair stations until the final rule was issued. That ban has now been in place for more than five years, and the number of repair stations awaiting FAA action has grown to more than 90.
TSA, following a lengthy review by the full Department of Homeland Security (DHS), sent a final rule for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on March 16. At the time, TSA Administrator John Pistole told Congress that “for the first time in a while, we are making progress.” But he was cautious, saying the rule “should” be out this year.
OMB review is typically a last stop before a rule is issued, and that review is typically 90 days. But the effects of sequestration, a government shutdown and a general slowing of OMB reviews on a number of rules have held back release of the final rule. The final rule was also believed to have required additional coordination between OMB and DHS.
However, industry groups have been receiving indications that the rule may still be on track for release this year, or is close to final issuance. But they are still wary of potential further delays.
General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce says “we believe significant progress has been made,” but called on Johnson to make sure the rulemaking is one of his first priorities. “The executive branch’s inaction prevents operators, who use their aircraft to engage markets around the globe, from accessing maintenance facilities that provide necessary repairs and alterations to general aviation aircraft,” Bunce says. “This failure to act by the executive branch has a significant negative impact on safety, jobs and economic growth.”
GAMA officials have noted that the inaction has essentially “frozen” the market for years during a time when the industry has undergone a rapid international expansion. This has been particularly true in the growing Asia-Pacific market, but the ban is an issue worldwide, GAMA has maintained.
“Aviation maintenance companies are losing millions of dollars in potential revenues because the FAA is prohibited from certificating new foreign repair stations until the security rule is finalized,” agrees Christian Klein, executive vice president of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. “The government should be nurturing small and medium-sized aviation maintenance companies, not obstructing their ability to compete internationally.”