DeFazio Targets Safety Standards at Foreign Airfields

On November 15, as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio introduced The Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act. The legislation would strengthen the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of repair stations located outside the United States, at a time when airlines are increasingly reliant on outsourced maintenance work.  

“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,” said Chair DeFazio. “For years I’ve pressed FAA officials to heed the warnings from its own Inspector General and to do more to close the gap between our safety standards and those of foreign repair stations. The bill I’m introducing today does just that by establishing one standard of safety regardless of where the aircraft is maintained. I look forward to moving this bill through Committee quickly, and ultimately getting it signed into law.”  

“Over the past several months, the FAA’s lax oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX has drawn national attention and concern. But for more than a decade, Consumer Reports has been vocal about another, widespread aircraft safety problem, the FAA’s lax oversight of outsourced airline maintenance,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser for Consumer Reports. “The FAA’s claimed ‘single standard’ is a myth.   

In reality, there is a different set of rules for foreign repair stations, which often employ uncertificated, poorly trained, and inadequately screened workers. What’s more, FAA inspectors aren’t providing the same level of hands-on oversight. We commend Chairman DeFazio for acting to fix this fundamental aircraft safety issue, and we hope it gets swift consideration.”  

“The FAA employees we represent undergo rigorous screening and are trained for months or even years before they are allowed to work on air traffic control systems or inspect aircraft,” said Professional Aviation Safety Specialists National President Mike Perrone. “Why wouldn’t the agency want to insist that our high standards are matched overseas where safety critical functions are concerned?”  

The legislation will address these safety and security issues by doing the following:  

  • Requiring all foreign repair stations to be subject to at least one unannounced safety inspection each year. 
  • Requiring supervisors and mechanics to be certificated under FAA regulations, regardless of location (e.g., technical fluency in English, completion of FAA testing, and demonstration of certain knowledge and skills). 
  • Requiring air carriers to submit a detailed maintenance report to the FAA monthly, and for the FAA to analyze these reports, along with existing data inputs, to detect safety issues. 
  • Impose a moratorium on FAA certification of new foreign repair stations if the FAA does not implement congressional mandates within one year. 
  • Requiring the FAA to create a repository for carriers to report heavy maintenance history by location and specific aircraft registration number, as well as other safety personnel metrics.   

This legislation has the support of aviation industry stakeholders, including: 

  • Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association  
  • Consumer Reports 
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers 
  • National Consumers League 
  • Professional Aviation Safety Specialists  
  • Transport Workers Union of America  
  • Transportation Trades Department  

To read the bill text, click here.