In its ongoing efforts to keep general aviation flying affordable, AOPA sometimes has to poke into some pretty obscure regulatory corners. Consider a proposed drug-testing rule targeted at maintenance subcontractors working on airline and air charter equipment.
At first glance, that wouldn't seem to have much to do with GA aircraft, but the way the rule is written, it could very well force up prices at small shops that also service general aviation components or, worse, put them out of business. And there is no demonstrable safety benefit to the rule. That's why AOPA has filed formal comments opposing it.
The FAA wants every shop that touches an aviation component to have a certified drug- and alcohol-testing program in place. That includes small specialty shops that do subcontract work for certificated aviation repair stations. Aviation work is usually a small portion of their business, and these small shops have no direct airworthiness authority. But as subcontractors, they frequently can work less expensively than the larger repair stations that have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the airworthiness of their work.
For example, the rule would require an upholstery shop to have a drug-testing program in place before recovering an aircraft seat. An avionics shop might send a CD player to a consumer electronics repair shop; it too would have to go to the additional expense and hassle of implementing a drug-testing program.
"After a careful review of the aviation accident statistics, we were unable to locate any data where drug and/or alcohol impairment of maintenance personnel was attributed as the cause or factor to an accident," AOPA said in its comments. "The FAA admits in the SNPRM [supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking] there have been no documented aviation accidents directly attributed to the misuse or abuse of drugs or alcohol [by maintenance personnel]."
This isn't the first time AOPA has opposed this proposal. When the FAA first filed it two years ago, AOPA, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, and more than a dozen other groups outlined the negative economic impact. Although the rule is aimed primarily at air carrier and commuter/on-demand operators, AOPA pointed out that it would affect the rest of general aviation as well, because many maintenance facilities do both air carrier and non-air carrier work.
"AOPA contends that there is absolutely no safety justification for this SNPRM," said Luis Gutierrez, director of regulatory and certification policy. "The FAA should withdraw this SNPRM and revert to its original policy of requiring that maintenance contractors meet the testing standard only if they have direct airworthiness responsibility for the work that they are performing.
"AOPA believes this policy is consistent with and in the interest of maintaining aviation safety and keeping aircraft ownership affordable."
August 19, 2004