FAA eyes foreign aircraft mechanics in new regs

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Foreign aircraft maintenance workers who operate on planes that fly into the United States could be subject to the same alcohol and drug testing requirements that already apply to pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers.

Federal regulators are considering an expansion of their alcohol and drug testing authority to include aircraft workers who perform safety-sensitive and preventive maintenance duties on international flights into the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Friday it is considering these new rules. Employees at more than 120 repair stations around the world would be affected by the new procedures.

"The FAA’s drug and alcohol testing regulations [currently] do not extend to companies or individuals who perform safety-sensitive functions, including, but not limited to, aircraft maintenance and preventive maintenance, outside of the United States," the agency wrote in the Federal Register.

The FAA's new rules would require these maintenance workers to follow local alcohol and drug testing procedures from their home countries that the agency finds acceptable.

Air carriers would be responsible for making sure that all repair station employees who operate on aircraft go through the testing procedures.

The agency now has alcohol and drug testing in place for members of the flight crew, such as pilots and flight attendants, flight instructors, air tour operators, aircraft dispatchers, air traffic controllers, ground security coordinators, and screeners that deal with international flights into the U.S.

The rules also apply to aircraft maintenance workers that operate from within the U.S., but they do not apply to foreign aircraft maintenance workers.

The FAA is looking to issue the new regulations in the absence of rules from the International Civil Aviation Organization, which governs the global industry.

"International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards do not presently require ICAO Member States to establish (or direct industry to establish) testing programs to deter or detect inappropriate drug and alcohol use by aviation personnel with safety-sensitive responsibilities," FAA wrote. "However, a number of ICAO standards and recommended practices address misuse of drugs and alcohol by aviation personnel and recognize the potential hazard that such misuse may pose to aviation safety."

The FAA said it is still considering the economic impact such a rule would have on the airline industry.