Air Transport World

U.S. foreign repair dilemma.... (Aviation Administration rules on foreign aircraft repair stations)

U.S. foreign repair dilemma . . .

Sometimes the U.S. government attacks issues with a hatchet when an artist's brush would be preferable. In an increasingly interdependent world, that is especially true of policy decisions that have worldwide ramifications.

Such is the case of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's new enforcement policy on usage of foreign repair stations for aircraft parts. The outcry from foreign governments, airlines and companies more and more resembles the reaction to the Civil Aeronautics Board's show cause order challenging the existence of the International Air Transport Association. CAB had to back down in that case, and FAA is having to eat some of its words in this one. As one industry participant said, the issue now "has 20 high-class lawyers working on it.' By Washington standards that makes for a pretty good fight.

The reason for the uproar started early last year when FAA sent notices to its field staff ordering a crackdown on the increasingly common practice of foreign repair of parts for U.S. registered aircraft operated in the U.S. Boiled down to its most general, the series of so-called "action notices' issued in 1986 affects two major practices: (1) airlines sending aircraft and components abroad for contract work that, by the rules, must be performed in the U.S.; (2) airlines and manufacturers sending foreign-made parts of U.S. planes back to their original manufacturers for repair.

With respect to the first practice, the law is pretty clear. Contract work cannot be sent abroad. Normal contract work can only be performed abroad in the course of an airline's normal schedule. If a carrier blows a tire in the Pacific, then the FAA permits repair at an approved foreign repair station in order to let the airline stick to some semblance of its schedule. That is supposed to be the full extent of the practice. …

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