Is the FAA out of the business of issuing Part 145 Repair Station certificates to repair stations located outside the United States?
Aircraft bearing US airworthiness certificates are required to be maintained by holders of US FAA – issued maintenance certificates (e.g. repair station certificates, A&P mechanics certificates, etc). 14 C.F.R. 43.1. There is an exception for certain Canadian certificate holders (14 C.F.R. 43.17), but otherwise the party performing maintenance must have a US FAA-issued certificate that permits maintenance in accordance with 14 C.F.R. 43.3.
US air carriers flying to foreign airports need line services at the foreign airports. Many air carriers obtain other maintenance services outside the United States. For some foreign-made components. the only qualified repair stations are outside the United States. Some of the owners of these foreign repair stations are large US-based aerospace companies who have seen a need to establish foreign maintenance bases. So the US marketplace relies on foreign repair stations in order to keep the global aviation system running smoothly.
FAA Notice 8900.47, entitled “Foreign Repair Stations Initial Certification after August 3, 2008,” was quietly published July 21, 2008. That guidance reminds FAA employees that they are no longer permitted to issue foreign repair station certificates as of August 3, 2008. The reason for this is because TSA was ordered by Congress to create repair station security rules. When TSA failed to comply, Congress decided to punish the repair station community by restricting foreign repair station certificates.
While this may sound misdirected, it is consistent with the goals of certain unions that have long lobbied for restrictions on foreign repair stations as a mechanism for bringing ‘outsourced’ work back within the bargaining unit of the air carrier (and thus increasing the unions’ dues base).
It may be awhile before security rules are in place. TSA has not yet even issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making, so a final rule could be years away. Once the TSA security rules are issued, the law will give TSA only 6 months to conduct audits of all foreign repair stations, and it will further prohibits the FAA from certifying any new foreign repair stations, until the TSA audits have been completed.
Most foreign repair station certificates expire periodically and must be reissued by the FAA. For these existing repair stations, there is an exception in the law. As foreign repair station certificates expire, they WILL be renewed (subject to continued eligibility). The FAA will also continue to process foreign repair station certificate applications received by August 3, 2008. But applications received on or after August 4 will not be processed until the TSA rule.
Close on the heels of this notice, the FAA has published its strategic plan document, which indicates that the FAA intends to take a leadership position in the global aviation community. It appears that perhaps the FAA needs to first take a leadership position in the domestic aviation community.