New repair station security rule reflects AOPA concerns

Decision opens way for FAA to certify new foreign repair stations, reduce backlog

January 16, 2014

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued a new Aircraft Repair Station Security rule that reflects the key concerns raised by AOPA as far back as 2009 and clears the way for the FAA to begin certifying repair stations based outside the United States after a five-year freeze.

The long-awaited rule will take effect Feb. 27 and is designed to prevent large aircraft—those weighing more than 12,500 pounds—that are capable of flight from unauthorized operation while at a repair station. Among other provisions, the TSA will require repair stations to designate a point of contact who is responsible for carrying out the rule’s provisions, protect large aircraft that are capable of flight from unauthorized use when they are left unattended, and verify basic background information about certain employees, including the designated point of contact and anyone with access to keys or other methods used for securing the aircraft.

Repair stations will also be required to allow TSA or Department of Homeland Security personnel to inspect their operations and review records. Repair stations that violate the security requirements will lose their certificates.

“This rule will have a minimal effect on most general aviation operators, but it does take a risk-based approach to security and that sets a good precedent for managing other security issues that may arise in the future,” said Thomas Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security. “We have been encouraging TSA to recognize that one-size does not fit all when it comes to security, and this rule reflects that.”

As far back as 2009, AOPA filed comments on the rule expressing concerns over provisions that would have severely restricted access to repair stations, required them to submit profile data to the TSA, and imposed other costly burdens on repair station operators and the airports where they are based. The final rule eliminates those provisions.

Publication of the rule also allows the FAA to begin certifying foreign repair stations, something the agency has been unable to do for the past five years, resulting in a backlog of more than 90 applications.