Union concerned about pending airplane security rule

“We have members in this country, U.S. mechanics, who want a level playing field on the regulatory cost side. Obviously, we represent other workers on the aviation side who want a safe and secure system,” said Larry Willis, the union's secretary-treasurer. “Ensuring one level of safety and security is part of that agenda.”

In August, Willis and two of his TTD colleagues met with officials from the TSA and the White House to press their case.

The organization wants stricter background checks for foreign mechanics, assurances that the TSA can conduct surprise inspections abroad and that they can review security plans.

The regulation stems from a 2003 law crafted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It is meant to ensure that airplanes at repair stations would not be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

“[A]s TSA tightens security in other areas of aviation, repair stations increasingly may become attractive targets for terrorist organizations attempting to evade aviation security protections currently in place,” the agency wrote in its proposal.

However, that proposal was not released until 2009, years after the TSA started work.

The George W. Bush administration “sat on” the rule, Willis said, and not until President Obama entered the White House did the gears begin to turn.

The delay has had consequences for the airline industry. Until a rule gets finalized, federal officials are prevented from certifying new repair stations, which airlines are usually required to go through to fix their equipment. As a result, the regulation has become a hot one for the aviation sector.

This year, trade groups, including the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the National Business Aviation Association have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying on the issue, among other topics, according to records.

The rule has been under review at the White House since March for what was supposed to be a 90-day review.

“The TSA should move forward with new security rules in an expedited fashion, but we believe they need to make several improvements to the proposed rule before it is finalized,” Willis said.