The finalized U.S.-certified repair station security rule, a significantly scaled back version of what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) originally proposed in 2009, is a reflection of industry feedback that sought a more focused, purpose-driven set of regulations.

The rule, mandated by Congress more than a decade ago and set for publication on Jan. 13, applies to some 4,700 Part 145 FAA-certified repair stations. But in a major concession to both industry wishes and general practicality, not all of its elements apply to every facility. Instead, TSA has zeroed in on the biggest threat: unauthorized access to large aircraft.

“As terrorist organizations continue to target civil aviation, TSA believes it is important for aircraft repair stations that are located on or adjacent to an airport to have specific security measures in place to prevent terrorists from commandeering large aircraft that are capable of flight and are not attended,” TSA explains in the rule’s introduction.

Among the biggest changes from the draft rule: elimination of purpose-built, and largely redundant, security programs that would have applied to every shop, regardless of size or proximity to an airfield.

In addition, the rule’s full set of security measures will apply only to so-called “higher risk” repair stations defined as on or adjacent to an airport. TSA defines “on airport” as being within an air operations area (AOA) or Security Identification Display Area (SIDA)—basically on the airfield. A repair station is “adjacent to” an airport if there is an easy way, such as a long taxiway or access ramp, to taxi an aircraft between the facilities.

In dropping the security program requirement, TSA recognized that most on-airport repair stations have existing procedures that follow TSA-mandated commercial airport security rules—including developing a SIDA and background-checking anybody who wants unescorted access to it.

Since TSA regulations don’t apply to non-U.S. airports, repair stations outside the U.S. will complete a four-question audit that will help TSA determine whether security measures are required.

The specific security measures for higher-risk repair stations include designating points of contact (POCs), available 24/7, who ensure large aircraft—those with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of at least 12,500 lb.—are secured when left unattended. POCs must pass background checks. Acceptable means of securing aircraft include blocking its path, locking it in a hangar, or preventing access to it by locking doors and controlling keys to air stairs or other means needed to get inside the cabin.

TSA says that some U.S. repair station inspections will be unannounced, “particularly if warranted by a security incident at a repair station. Inspections of foreign repair stations will “follow current agency practices,” which include “always” coordinating inspections with the host government beforehand. The agency does not plan to inspect off-airport repair stations except under extreme circumstances.

All repair stations are required to follow some of the rule’s elements, including specific TSA security directives.

Scaling back the requirements cut the rule’s projected 10-year costs from $266 million in the draft rule to $22 million, TSA estimates.

The rule applies only to FAA Part 145-certificated repair stations. Among maintenance facilities not affected by the rule are repair stations in Canada, which—per the U.S.-Canada aviation safety bilateral—comply with FAA Part 43 when performing work on U.S.-registered aircraft. Also exempt are internal, air carrier-owned shops under Part 121 and Part 135 certificates.

While industry leaders are still reviewing the 24,000-word preamble and rule, early reaction is largely favorable, with criticism aimed less on the rule’s contents and more on the time it took TSA to get it done. Congress mandated the rule in the December 2003 FAA reauthorization bill, giving TSA a deadline of less than a year. More than a decade later, TSA checked the box.

“By finally putting this rule into place, the U.S. government is ending a decade of bureaucratic inaction, establishing a risk-based security requirement for repair stations and making it easier for U.S. businesses to access and support markets throughout the world,” General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce says.

The Aeronautical Repair Station Association “commends TSA for heeding industry input and narrowing the scope of the regulation,” says Executive Director Sarah MacLeod.

Publication of the rule ends a five-year ban on certifying new foreign repair stations. Congress, frustrated with TSA’s inaction on the issue, banned FAA from certifying new foreign repair stations in 2008 until the final rule was issued. During the five-plus year wait, the number of repair stations awaiting FAA certification had grown to more than 90. Now that the rule is done, ARSA, GAMA and others are turning to FAA to urge a rapid clearing out of the foreign repair station application queue.

“The association looks forward to immediately working with the FAA to begin the process of certificating new foreign repair stations so aviation maintenance companies can continue to create jobs and expand markets,” ARSA’s MacLeod says.