A far-reaching proposed drug and alcohol testing rule for aviation repair stations could increase costs and reduce available services for general aviation aircraft owners. That rule would require even testing subcontractors who have no direct authority for certifying airworthiness. AOPA objected to the rule two years ago, and now FAA has reopened it for comments, but not on the core issues raised by the association.
"The proposal has no demonstrated safety benefit but would have significant economic impact on general aviation pilots and owners," said Luis Guiterrez, AOPA's director of Regulatory Affairs. "Subcontractors would either raise their prices to cover the cost of administering a testing program or, far more likely, simply stop accepting the work, limiting owners' choices and driving up prices."
When the rule was first proposed two years ago, AOPA, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), 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.
Many of these certified repair stations out-source work to small, specialty-type businesses in which aviation-related work is usually a small portion of their revenue. These subcontractors can do the work at a lower cost than the contractor. However, the certified repair station still has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring airworthiness. If the small subcontractors are required to have drug testing programs, many will simply stop providing aviation services due to the overall increase in cost and bureaucracy. That could lead to a higher cost to aviation with no enhancement to safety.
In the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM), FAA is only willing to consider comments on economic impact but will not revisit AOPA's basic concern that the rule should not be extended to subcontractors.
The FAA is accepting comments through August 16, 2004. They may be filed online [link to dms.dot.gov] by clicking on "Comments/Submissions" and following the directions. The Docket ID is FAA-2002-11301. Comments may also be sent by regular mail to: Docket Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL 401, 400 Seventh Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Be sure to include the Docket ID at the beginning of your comments.
June 16, 2004