Earlier this month an ATEC contingent descended upon Washington, D.C. for its annual Fly-in. This pilgrimage happens each fall to push legislative and regulatory action, meet with key leaders, and conduct critical business for the organization.
The event kicked off with a roundtable discussion with FAA officials. Flight Standards Service Deputy Executive Director Larry Fields and Deputy Director Office of Safety Standards Van Kerns were joined by 12 of their colleagues to discuss a laundry list of regulatory issues impacting certificated part 147 schools.
Coming off the recent publication of the part 147 supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, attendees discussed the impact proposed mandates would have on schools, and the role of accrediting bodies vs. the FAA in overseeing educational quality elements in their technical programs. ATEC strongly suggested—as it did in its comments to the SNPRM—that the FAA defer to Department of Education accreditation requirements on all matters concerning educational oversight, and took the opportunity to educate officials on the role of accreditors. (See presentation by Aviation Institute of Maintenance Vice President Joel English, The Triad in Higher Education.)
The council then discussed a formal letter it sent the week prior, asking the FAA to provide for part 147 “additional fixed locations,” and better facilitate maintenance program expansion into high schools (see related story, below). FAA representatives also gave updates on airman testing system improvements and the anticipated expansion of the Organization Designee Authorization program, an effort that would greatly expand access to testing for mechanic certificate applicants (see related story).
A lunch briefing by Aeronautical Repair Station Association Executive Vice President Christian Klein gave attendees an update on the grant programs authorized under the recent FAA reauthorization bill (see related story). Klein encouraged attendees to educate congressional leaders on the need to include funding in 2020 appropriations legislation so that the Department of Transportation can implement the program as directed (See related story, below).
Klein was joined by Policy Advisory for Senator James Inhofe (OK) Dan Hillenbrand who briefed attendees on a new legislative effort to push part 147 rulemaking. The Senator has championed several legislative initiatives (including a provision in the FAA reauthorization bill mandating promulgation of part 147 within six months, see related story). The latest legislative effort would direct the agency to issue an ATEC-drafted part 147 within 90 days.
The legislative effort leverages regulatory language provide in the council’s comments to the SNPRM (see related story), and mandate that the agency promulgate the language as written by the ATEC community. The plan was initiated after the agency suggested a final rule is still two years away, and publication of a less-than-optimal supplemental proposal (see related story).
Attendees were presented with a discussion draft of the legislation in order to solicit review and comment from the community and legislative leaders (see issue page with more details on the proposal). Hillenbrand asked that the community identify potential Senate co-sponsors, as well as House leaders willing to introduce companion legislation on the House side. A final bill is expected to be introduced soon.
The day concluded with briefings on federal initiatives impacting career technical education from representatives of the STEM Education Coalition and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. STEM’s James Brown and the White House’s Cindy Hasselbring informed attendees on how the council might better align their regulatory and legislative priorities with the Administration, and what resources are available to help the industry communicate their issues and proposed mandates.
A workshop to kick off the first research phase of Choose Aerospace—an organization created to advance awareness in aviation maintenance—rounded out the day. Level 7 Market Research Senior Managing Partner Kathleen Costello led attendees in an open discussion to supplement the firm’s findings at a recent student focus group—held at the University of the District of Columbia Community College. The research project is initially focused on marketing best practices for attracting new talent into the workforce pipeline. Information gathered from students at UDCCC and attendees at the ATEC Fly-in will publish in an initial report later this year.
After a full day of briefings on the issues, attendees were well prepared for meetings with congressional leaders the following day. Aviation maintenance education representatives held 44 meetings pushing ATEC’s top legislative issues, including garnering support for federal grant funding and legislation to fast-track an ATEC-drafted part 147. Efforts were successful, with congressional leaders overwhelmingly in support of all ATEC’s priorities.
After two days of briefings, meetings, and fellowship (thanks to AMFA, AVOTEK, AIM, Piedmont for keeping us fed and watered!), the ATEC board of directors held is semi-annual, in-person meeting to discuss council business. Directors voted in favor of a funding plan that will support the next phase of ATEC development. A 2020 dues increase will support the creation of a new charitable organization that will administer scholarships previously available to aviation maintenance programs and students through the Northrop Rice Foundation, and facilitate the Choose Aerospace coalition. Members will receive additional information about these exciting next steps in the coming weeks.
Thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, and attendees that made this year’s Fly-in a success. Through events like the Fly-in, ATEC ensures your voice is heard. If you weren’t able to participate in Washington there are more ways to get involved. Invite a member of congress to your school and show them what you do in your community. Volunteer to serve on an ATEC committee. Attend our annual conference next April in Fort Worth. Join us in building the future.
Download event materials, speaker presentations, and photos at atec-amt.org/fly-in-2019.
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.