LEE'S SUMMIT, MO., Oct. 3, 2013 -- On Thursday, Oct. 3, Aircraft Electronics Association Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs Ric Peri met with several members of the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee, along with other general aviation leaders, for a round-table discussion on the biggest challenges facing the industry.
Despite this week's federal government shutdown, the event took place this morning at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., and was hosted by Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Small Business Committee and co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus.
The purpose of the meeting was to identify and seek solutions for the most critical issues currently facing general aviation.
Peri communicated the AEA's concerns regarding the upcoming ADS-B mandate looming in 2020, along with certification and installation challenges facing Title 14 CFR Part 145 avionics repair shops. He was joined by various other aviation association executives in the invitation-only meeting.
"The AEA is grateful to Congressman Graves for offering a forum with other Congressional leaders to discuss a variety of issues facing the industry," Peri said. "It's important for these elected officials to work together in a bipartisan fashion to develop a regulatory and legislative framework to assist the industry. General aviation produced nearly $6.3 billion in worldwide avionics sales last year alone according to the AEA Avionics Market Report, and it's an industry that annually contributes more than $150 billion to the U.S. economy and employs more than 1.2 million people.
"It's easy to focus on ADS-B and new technology, but there is a root cause that lies beneath the challenges the industry is facing with NextGen, as well as the low-cost installation of safety-enhancing technologies in the cockpit of general aviation aircraft. The issue is one of fundamental organizational leadership. Every organization needs leadership to make the 'final' decision; the hard decisions; the compromise decisions. Organizational leaders take input from each expert and make the best decision, but the AEA feels that the Federal Aviation Administration lacks this ability as an organization.
"While the FAA employs some extremely talented individuals, its inability to make a decision is paralyzing the organization and, as a result, the avionics repair shops that rely on a helpful, responsive and consistent agency. Currently, any one individual within the agency can, and routinely does, derail a project, and the leadership doesn't have the necessary tools to collect the best data and simply make a decision.
"When identifying challenges that most impact the industry, we often compare the 7,000 safety inspectors and engineers the AEA membership interfaces with as 7,000 independent contractors. These 7,000 individuals do their best to make a perfect decision about absolute safety. Unfortunately, a decision by one representative of the FAA administrator means nothing to the other 6,999 independent representatives. If he or she believes, without substantiation, that another safety inspector or engineer is incorrect, they will simply ground the aircraft, refuse certificates or threaten enforcement action until the small business capitulates to their demands, without management oversight and without any opportunities to reasonably dispute the person's opinion in a timely manner.
"A decision made at one FAA district office will often be second guessed at another district office, and the product or project will be held ransom until the small business capitulates. There is no organizational leadership to intervene.
"As a result, many avionics repair shops simply accept the highest level of approvals in order to minimize the impact of inspector second-guessing, which increases costs, reduces profits and compromises safety by discouraging, rather than encouraging, new safety-enhancing technologies. Ultimately, these increased costs are passed along to the end users and aircraft owners."
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Founded in 1957, the Aircraft Electronics Association represents nearly 1,300 member companies in more than 40 countries, including government-certified international repair stations specializing in maintenance, repair and installation of avionics and electronic systems in general aviation aircraft. The AEA membership also includes manufacturers of avionics equipment, instrument repair facilities, instrument manufacturers, airframe manufacturers, test equipment manufacturers, major distributors, engineers and educational institutions.