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US ponders drug testing in foreign aircraft shops
March 14, 2014
DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Aviation regulators say they're considering rules that would require alcohol and drug testing for people who work on U.S. airline planes in foreign maintenance and repair shops.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that it is seeking public comments. The agency wants to know which countries allow random drug testing and which ban it, and which drugs are most abused in other countries.
Transportation workers in the U.S. are subject to drug and alcohol testing, and Congress voted in 2012 to extend the rules to foreign aircraft repair shops.
However, the FAA could run into a patchwork of international laws about drug testing, which can range from bans to greater privacy protections. In 2000, the FAA abandoned an effort to require drug testing for employees of foreign airlines that operate in the U.S.
The FAA said extending drug-testing laws overseas "presents complex practical and legal issues and could impose potentially significant costs on industry."
In recent years, U.S. airlines have shifted more maintenance work overseas. Labor unions have complained, saying that the foreign shops aren't regulated as closely as ones in the U.S.
There are about 120 foreign repair stations that work on planes flown by U.S.-based airlines, the FAA said in a Federal Register posting.
Some of those foreign facilities are represented by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, which defends the quality of foreign shops and favors an international approach to preventing drug and alcohol use among their workers.
The trade group "is not for people using drugs and alcohol when they work on aircraft," executive director Sarah MacLeod said in an interview, "but it's also not for expending resources that can be focused in other areas such as training and other more important aspects to civil aviation safety."
At a recent congressional hearing, an AFL-CIO official said that the U.S. should curb outsourcing of aircraft-repair work and provide safeguards when outsourcing is allowed.
"If you're going to repair aircraft overseas under FAA regulations, then the same rules will apply to those workers that apply here in the United States," said the union official, Edward Wytkind.