The FAA this week issued its final rule with changes to Part 145, the regulations governing certification of aircraft repair stations. Thanks to AOPA's advocacy efforts, aircraft owners will be spared significant price increases.
"Under the FAA's original proposal, general aviation aircraft owners could have been hit with maintenance price increases of 30 percent or more," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "But the FAA responded to most of AOPA's concerns and comments and changed the parts of the proposal that would have had the greatest economic impact."
Repair station regulations haven't changed in almost 40 years. The aviation industry has advanced substantially since then, particularly with the advent of new electronics and avionics technologies. The rules set new standards for everything from personnel training to required facilities to record keeping.
While these new requirements will still increase costs for repair stations, "The FAA's response to AOPA's recommendations means that those increases will likely be limited to about five percent," said Cebula.
Not all maintenance shops are certificated repair stations. A properly licensed mechanic can perform aircraft maintenance and repair without the shop holding a certificate. And many aircraft owners choose these shops for annual inspections, routine maintenance, and other repairs.
Certificated repair stations are usually larger operations or engage in specialty work such as engine overhauls, aircraft painting, accessory repair and overhaul, and avionics installation and repair.
When the FAA first proposed the Part 145 rule changes in 1999, AOPA objected to provisions that would have placed an increased bureaucratic burden on smaller repair stations without yielding a significant safety benefit.
"These rules might make sense for large repair stations working on Transport-category aircraft, but they're overkill for the typical GA maintenance shop employing five or six technicians," AOPA said at that time.
For example, AOPA objected to proposed rules that would have had the FAA micromanaging such things as the personnel organization chart or something as simple as changing a lighting fixture. The rules would also have prohibited the common industry practice of contracting with another repair facility to perform specialized work.
In its final rule, the FAA removed or modified most of the items that AOPA objected to. The FAA also deferred a proposal on rating and classes that would have created unnecessary difficulty for repair stations to perform work on a variety of aircraft.
"AOPA objected to the FAA's 'one size fits all' approach and pushed for changes that would minimize the burden on smaller repair stations and the aircraft owners who use them," said Cebula. "The final rule is far from perfect, but in the main we were able to save aircraft owners from unnecessary regulation."
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots, and three quarters of aircraft owners, are AOPA members.