A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on May 8 to address one of the most pressing challenges facing the U.S. aviation industry: the chronic technician shortage.
The bill sponsored by Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) is the House companion to Senate legislation introduced in March. It creates a new program administered by the FAA to provide grants of up to $500,000 to support aviation maintenance workforce development activities. The legislation incentivizes local collaboration by requiring that grant applications be jointly submitted by a business or labor organization, school and governmental entity.
And aviation coalition, including ATEC, sent a May 8 letter in support of the House bill.
The two independent bills now await FAA reauthorization conference negotiations, the goal is to enact the grant program via that larger funding bill.
US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill to improve training programs at aviation maintenance technician schools. If enacted, the statute would require Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promulgation of a new part 147 within six months. The regulation that governs aviation maintenance technician schools has not been significantly revised since it was re-codified into the Code of Federal Regulations in 1962.
Industry has fought long and hard for a revision to part 147, which dictates static curriculum requirements for schools teaching future aviation mechanics. Over the past decade, representatives have provided specific recommendations through a 2007 Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, proposed regulatory language in its comments to the 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking, responded to additional requests for information through submission of supplemental comments and facilitation of surveys, and participated in working groups that will improve mechanic testing standards and correlated training programs.
"While the education community will continue to lend support, and appreciates the time and effort required for well thought out and monitored rulemaking, it refuses to sit by and wait for regulatory relief while industry and our students continue to pay for outdated training regulations," said ATEC Legislative Chairman and Southern Utah University Director of Maintenance Jared Britt.
This is not the first time congress has pushed for a new rule. In the last three years, congressional representatives have sent four letters to the agency requesting a status update. "It was time we did something more than just inquire, and we are grateful that our elected leaders are taking the next step," said Britt.
An industry coalition—spearheaded by ATEC—sent a letter in support of the bill, asking Congress to support the future aviation workforce, in support of an industry constantly driving for more innovative, safer and more efficient aircraft. Signatories of the letter included:
Aeronautical Repair Station Association
Aerospace Industries Association
Aerospace Maintenance Council
Aircraft Electronics Association
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association
Airlines for America
Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance
Aviation Maintenance Technician Association
Aviation Suppliers Association
Aviation Technician Education Council
Cargo Airline Association
Helicopter Association International
International Air Transport Association
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Air Carrier Association
National Air Transportation Association
National Business Aviation Association, Inc.
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association
Regional Airline Association
Women in Aviation International
The statute would also require that curriculum be revised and updated in coordination with emerging aviation maintenance technician airman certification standards, something an industry working group helping to develop the new standard has already recommended.
While the text has not been officially published as of the date of this post, it will soon be available at www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2792?r=6.
Senate media releases:
Washington, DC – An amendment submitted by Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Bill Keating (R-MA) to H.R.4, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization, passed the House of Representatives. It is expected that H.R. 4 will pass the House later in the week.
The Ryan-Keating Amendment would direct the FAA to lead coordinated efforts between government, educational institutions, labor organizations, and the private sector to regularly evaluate workforce priorities and ensure aviation maintenance training programs are preparing the next generation of the aviation workforce to fill the types of jobs the industry needs. According to Boeing, from now until 2036, North American commercial airlines will need over 100,000 new technicians. An example of the type of institution that is preparing new technicians to meet this urgent industry need and would benefit from the amendment is the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics - Youngstown and Warren Campus.
The Ryan-Keating Amendment also directs the U.S. Government Accountability Office to make evidence-based recommendations on how to best strengthen and expand aviation training programs by addressing public funding, equipment, and other needs.
“I am pleased that our amendment to strengthen aviation technician training was included in the FAA reauthorization bill. This legislation will be beneficial to programs across the United States, including at Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics - Youngstown and Warren Campus by better preparing enrolled students to fill the jobs that are needed by the aviation industry. Public-private partnerships are critical to our long-term economic success, and this new collaboration between government, educational institutions, and the private sector will be a shining example of what we can do when we come together to transform our economy, and our communities,” said Congressman Tim Ryan.
“As the scarcity of aviation personnel becomes ever more critical, aviation maintenance educators are encouraged by the proposed Ryan-Keating Amendment, which would provide the necessary coordination among all parties impacted by this labor shortage. In order for technical schools like Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics – Youngstown branch campus to attract students into this highly specialized field which often escapes the notice of the traveling public, we must be able to provide students with the best possible educational facilities, updated equipment and technology which mirrors the aircraft systems currently in use, a means to inform youth and displaced workers about aviation careers, ample flexibility by the FAA to ensure the most current and effective course content and delivery, and funding for students in educational programs which support the future aviation workforce,” said Suzanne Markle, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.
“There are good union jobs out there for the taking and we need to make sure our people are trained and ready to fill them,” said Congressman Keating. “Aviation maintenance is a field where we know high-skilled, well-paying jobs will be available in the near future and with aviation safety constantly evolving, programs like the ones at Cape Cod Community College need to have our full support. It is so important that Cape Cod Community College and others have spearheaded these programs with their limited resources to prepare our students for these jobs. We need to do our part to make it easier for these programs going forward so that even more can emerge around the country and so that current programs can access the information and resources they need to keep up with industry needs so our aviation maintenance program graduates are ready to hit the ground running.”
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch made formal inquiry into the status of the anticipated revised proposal for 14 CFR part 147, the regulation governing curriculum requirements for aviation maintenance technician schools.
In addition to the update, Sen. Hatch highlighted the need for a rule that provides more flexibility:
"As you may know, Utah schools are home to many aviation education programs, including those for aviation maintenance technicians. I have repeatedly heard from constituents who wish to have updated, less burdensome regulations for these programs. I share in their concerns that the rule is in major need of an update to keep up with the expanding global aviation sector and modernized aircraft."
The FAA has stated than an SNPRM will be issued in October 2017.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, representative of Florida's 12th District, joined his distinguished colleagues asking for an update on promulgation of new regulations governing aviation maintenance technician schools.
In his request, Rep. Bilirakis stated, "I am encouraged to see the FAA recognize the need to modernize and reorganize these important regulations in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice No. 15-10) and I believe the FAA should focus efforts to complete the rulemaking process efficiently."
Bilirakis joins Reps. Lamar Smith (TX), Tom Rice (SC) and Jim Bridenstine (OK) in their call for FAA action on part 147. In a Feb. 12, 2016 response to the Rice/Bridenstine letter, Administrator Huerta stated that "the part 147 rulemaking is among the highest priorities for the FAA."
Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21), at ATEC and member Hallmark University's prodding, sent a congressional inquiry asking for an update on the Federal Aviation Administration's rulemaking efforts for part 147, the regulation that governs operations and curriculum requirements for aviation maintenance technician schools.
In his letter, Rep. Smith states: "Part 147 is long overdue for modernization. Schools certificate under the current regulation are mandated by law to teach skills that do not add to the preparation of students pursuing high-tech aviation jobs. Any further delays in modernization will detrimentally affect students and industry." The congressman goes on to request that the agency respond with an expected promulgation date.
This is the second such inquiry made on behalf of the aviation community. Last February, Representatives Tom Rice (S.C.) and Jim Bridenstine (Okla.) sent a letter asking the FAA to make the rulemaking its highest priority. An FAA response stated that was indeed the case, and that the agency is committed to "delivering regulation that encompasses new technology and remains flexible to grow and adapt with the industry."
Update: On Aug. 29, 2017, the FAA responded to Smith's inquiry, stating that "several commentators suggested expanding the scope of [the] proposal to allow for competency-based training and satellite facilities... Because these two topics were not proposed in the NPRM, the FAA is required by law to publish a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) seeking public comment. We expect the SNPRM to be ready for publication later this fall, along with a draft Advisory Circular 147-3... The FAA is aware of the importance of the AMTS rule and will make every effort to expedite its issuance."
ATEC is initiating a grassroots campaign to garner legislative support for expeditious issuance of the new part 147. To support those efforts, ATEC contributed an opinion article to a leading political publication, The Hill. The piece highlights the ever-growing need for a modernized regulation governing aviation maintenance technician training. It will be used to educate lawmakers on the issue during the council's annual Fly-In, held each year in Washington DC.
Read and share the article, found here: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/transportation/345631-aviation-struggles-with-50-year-old-maintenance-training
ATEC officially enlisted Congress in the council’s effort to update 14 CFR part 147. After weeks of development, Representatives Tom Rice (S.C.) and Jim Bridenstine (Okla.) sent a letter asking the FAA to make the rulemaking its highest priority.
To ensure a final rule is issued efficiently, the letter emphasized that the “outdated part 147 mandates hinder the aviation maintenance industry's ability to compete and grow” and encouraged the agency to “continue on the course identified in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.”
The effort to produce a final rule updating 147 is a top priority for ATEC. Stay tuned as the council continues to use every avenue to improve AMTS’s regulatory foundation.
February 2, 2016 update: Administrator Huerta responds to the congressional letter, stating in part "The part 147 rulemaking is among the highest priorities for the FAA. We are committed to delivering regulation that encompasses new technology and remains flexible to grow and adapt with the industry... The FAA will proceed with this rulemaking as timely and efficiently as possible while adhering to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act."
ATEC Member Alerts
Stay tuned for updates on everything ATEC members need to know as well as ways that you can help the council and the AMTS community.