Legislative Priorities

The council is Congress's resource for information about the aviation technical education community. ATEC advocates for common sense legislation that promotes aviation technical careers, supports the current workforce, and beats back efforts to unnecessarily increase procedural or administrative burdens on educational institutions. ATEC's specific legislative priorities are as follows:

Ensure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman certification standards (ACS) are maintained in support of aviation safety and industry workforce needs. The ACS are a product of a highly successful, decades-long collaboration between the FAA and industry stakeholders to clearly define what a person needs to know, say, and do to obtain airman certification, including mechanic certification. The collaborative process is threatened by recent and overly restrictive interpretation of the Administrative Procedures Act, specifically language on ex parte communications.

ATEC asks Congress to implement recommendations submitted by a call-to-action subgroup in direct response to congressional request that call for timely publishing of time-critical safety information and continued engagement with community partners to continually improve the ACS and accompanying guidance materials.

Support a skilled and dynamic aviation workforce by increasing workforce grant program funding. In the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, Congress established the Aviation Workforce Development Grants program, which provides funding to academia and the aviation community to help prepare a more inclusive talent pool of pilots and maintenance professionals. The program was massively oversubscribed with more than 350 applicants for just $10 million in available funds.

The council encourages Congress to expand the program as recommend in the Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Report, by allocating $50 million in the next FAA reauthorization bill. ATEC also recommends expanding eligibility to including non-profit organizations, clarifying that part 147 schools are eligible for grants and that a past award grant doesn’t bar you from a future grant, allocating funding to FAA personnel to run the program; improving transparency and industry engagement; and creating a mechanism to share case studies about how grant money has been put to use.

Provide mechanic trainees the opportunity to take a portion of the FAA mechanic test earlier in their training cycle, to support and encourage aviation maintenance programs in high school. Under the current regulatory framework, high school aviation maintenance programs may not—unlike their pilot program counterparts—refer their students to an FAA-approved testing center to take the general written knowledge test. This is a disadvantage to high school maintenance programs who cannot take advantage of the generally adopted consensus that individuals completing a portion of required testing earlier in the training cycle are more likely to ultimately become certified. The council requests that Congress direct the agency to modify part 65 to allow applicants to sit for the general knowledge test prior to meeting those experience requirements.
 
Expand access to FAA airman testing. Forty percent of aviation technician school graduates do not take the oral and practical exam necessary to receive FAA mechanic certification—access to FAA-designated examiners is one of the largest barriers to student testing. The agency has proposed expansion of its Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program to include examiner delegations, which would allow schools to manage FAA testing delegates and meet student demand. Unfortunately, the policy approval process is stalled. The council asks legislative leaders to engage with agency officials to expedite review of Revision C to the Airman Certification ODA Order (8100.15) and expand FAA mechanic testing capacity for our students.
 
Oppose threats to educational institutions. ATEC opposes legislation that limits aviation technical schools from serving students and veterans, including public, private non-profit, and private proprietary institutions. The industry is facing a massive technical workforce shortage, all FAA-certificated aviation maintenance trainings schools are vital to industry’s growth and prosperity. ATEC asks legislative leaders to oppose any legislation masked rhetorically as student protection aid (e.g., 90-10 rule, borrower defense to repayment, etc.) that instead threatens a vital source of aviation maintenance professionals and negatively impacts aerospace companies looking to hire technical personnel.
 
Implement initiatives that will expedite service member transition into civil aviation careers. ATEC estimates the civil aviation industry is capturing less than 10 percent of exiting veterans with aviation maintenance experience. More can and should be done to ease the burden experienced by veterans with valuable experience but no clear path to civilian certification.

The council joins its allies and asks its legislative leaders to direct the FAA to create a military competency exam that will provide a pathway to mechanic certification for existing servicemen and women, similar to the pathway available to military pilots.

Include aviation technical programs as STEM fields across all federal agency classification systems. For example, the Department of Homeland Security does not include all aviation maintenance programs to be considered a “STEM field of study,” which limits students’ ability to apply for visa extensions to work in the U.S. after graduation. Aviation technical program codes are absent from similar lists maintained by the Department of Labor, meaning they cannot take advantage of STEM-focused programming or all the downstream benefits of having that categorization. The council asks congressional representatives to ensure aviation maintenance programs are designated as STEM programs across all federal government agencies.