TSA to issue long-awaited rule on foreign repair stations

Washington DC
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The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will issue a long-awaited rule on 13 January that mandates security procedures for certain aircraft repair stations inside and outside of the USA to prevent unauthorised use of large aircraft.

In addition to requiring some repair stations to adopt security procedures, the passage of the rule signifies the lifting of a ban that has prohibited repair stations outside of the USA from obtaining Part 145 approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration since 2008.

Congress required the TSA to develop foreign repair security rules in 2003, a process that was scheduled to end in 2004. But the process has been ongoing for the past decade after the TSA missed a second deadline in 2008 to pass the rules. Therefore, the FAA has been unable to issue new certificates for repair stations outside of the USA submitted after 3 August 2008.

While all FAA Part 145 repair stations must allow US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct inspections if needed, the text of the rule that mandates additional security procedures only applies to certain repair stations on or adjacent to airport premises.

The security procedures include designating a point of contact for the TSA and securing large, unattended aircraft with minimum take-off weights of more than 12,500lb that are able to fly. The repair stations must conduct background checks for employees securing the aircraft and this point of contact, says the TSA.

“While the FAA has implemented extensive safety requirements for repair stations located within and outside the United States, supplementing those safety provisions with the security requirements contained in the final rule will further reduce the likelihood that terrorists would be able to use large aircraft as a weapon,” says the rule.

Other repair stations not on or adjacent to airports are generally a “minimal risk to aviation security,” the rule says. Under the rule, the TSA will notify repair stations if they present an “immediate risk” to security as well as if their security procedures are insufficient. Repair stations will be able to request a review of this process.

However, the AFL-CIO federation of unions representing transportation workers calls the repair station rule “inadequate."

“We are extremely disappointed with TSA’s final rule on aircraft repair station security released earlier today,” says Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s transportation trades department in a media release. “The final rule further rolls back already weak security requirements TSA proposed in 2009, fails to address security loopholes in the proposed rule identified by [the transportation trades department], and runs counter to the congressional requirement that TSA ensure the security of maintenance work performed at contract repair stations.”

Alexandria, Virginia-based Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has been vocal in asking lawmakers to lift the ban on certifying foreign repair stations and says that the next step will be to work with repair stations to finally gain the Part 145 approvals.

“While ARSA commends TSA for heeding industry input and narrowing the scope of the regulation, it’s a shame the agency took so long to issue what appears to be straightforward,” says ARSA’s executive director Sarah MacLeod in media release. “The association looks forward to immediately working with the FAA to begin the process of certificating new foreign repair stations so aviation maintenance companies can continue to create jobs and expand markets.”

The final rule goes into effect 45 days from 13 January, when it will be published in the US Federal Register.