Wings Magazine

News
TSA to investigate how repair shops secure planes in U.S.

Jan. 13, 2014, Washington, D.C. - The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up to begin inspecting airplane shops all over the world, an effort aimed at stopping potential sabotage and theft of U.S. planes.


January 13, 2014
By The Associated Press

The new rules announced on Friday will put TSA in the business of
inspecting airport-based repair stations, finally satisfying a mandate
that Congress first issued 10 years ago because of fears that terrorists
could steal an unattended plane or sabotage one while it is being
repaired.

 

However, the TSA in its final rule announced Friday
exempted repair facilities that aren't near airports. The agency said it
looked into the risks for those stations and decided they "represent a
minimal risk to aviation security."

Advertisment

 

The Federal Aviation Administration already
monitors facilities that work on U.S.-registered planes, but its focus
is more on making sure work at those stations meets U.S. standards.

 

However, there have been worries that terrorists could steal a plane or
plant a bomb in one.

The new rule also ends a moratorium that had kept FAA from authorizing new overseas stations.

 

The rules cover some 4,100 U.S. and 700 foreign
repair stations. The TSA couldn't immediately say how many of those
facilities are at or near airports. The stations include everything from
those in cavernous hangars where whole planes are repaired or interiors
renovated, down to small shops where seat belts are repaired. Airlines
used to do most of that work themselves, but over the past decade they
have aimed to save money by shifting work to third-party facilities,
many of them overseas.

 

TSA said the rule gives it the
authority to inspect repair shops in the U.S. and abroad, although
international inspections will only happen in consultation with that
country's government. That has caused worries that repair shops will be
tipped off about pending inspections.

 

Besides inspections, TSA said it will monitor
some stations by asking them questions over the phone or sending in
paperwork to be audited.

 

Unions criticized the new rules,
which will be published Monday, as being too weak. Unions have been
pushing for tighter regulation of overseas stations, where work is often
performed by non-union workers.

 

The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department
said the rule's security measures are "limited and weak" and criticized
the focus on repair stations near airports. Security issues go beyond
facilities near airports, said AFL-CIO transportation head Edward
Wytkind.

 

The Aeronautical Repair Station
Association said the final rule is "significantly narrower in scope"
from the TSA's planned rule issued in 2009. The trade group said that
the rule allows repair shops to make planes secure just by removing
their fuel or locking them in hangars.