Collaboration vs. Controversy

(Originally published in the Q2 Aviation Business Journal)

For years, we’ve heard volumes about the unintended consequences of campaigns fueled by special interests on the general aviation industry. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) attack on “egregious” FBO pricing disregards the value FBOs provide the flying public, including the guaranteed stability lease rents offer to airport sponsors.

Titles of articles such as “Reversing a Power Shift,” “Pilots react to AOPA’s fight for airport access,” “AOPA announces Airport Access Watch List” and “How to go around the FBO” don’t match AOPA’s sentiment that “most FBOs are doing a great job.” AOPA has chosen to address its concerns in a very public manner through the press and membership marketing emails.

When looking at the 13 airports out of 3,500 that AOPA has identified as problematic and the small number of complaints they claimed to have received, the reality is that it appears these efforts are merely a marketing campaign designed to energize their members. There is a real possibility that unintended consequences will result in damage to the overall aviation community. One recent example is a local city government, now focusing on general aviation airport user costs, is instituting significant landing fees on turbine aircraft. Are piston aircraft next? All trade associations, including AOPA, fought the concept of ATC user fees. Airports should not subsidize one segment of the aviation
community, as suggested by AOPA, to shift costs to other users of the airport.

NATA always stands at the ready to collaborate and work with the industry (including AOPA) in addressing concerns for the good of the entire community—consumers and businesses. Recently, Congress requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) perform a study on FBO pricing. The GAO is a nonpartisan, independent agency that works at the request of Congress to ensure the accountability of the federal government. NATA immediately offered our assistance and worked with our membership to coordinate FBO tours for the GAO team and will continue to help in any capacity to highlight the unique aspects of the FBO business model.

A core component in achieving NATA’s mission of empowering aviation businesses to be safe and prosperous is to build bridges, not only on Capitol Hill but also in the community. In this role, NATA is committed to serving as an agent of better understanding between airports and tenants. NATA and the American Association of Airport Executives formed a working group to maintain an open dialogue between tenants and landlords, permitting a clearer understanding of perspectives that will allow both sides to continue to grow and prosper. Also, NATA is working to provide a well-rounded perspective on the FBO industry through two initiatives: FBOs: Above and Beyond and Real FBO Facts. These efforts highlight the intricacies of operating an FBO and the extraordinary services and value provided by our FBO members to their communities and the industry. NATA invites you to share Real FBO Facts by placing the
images and information found on pages 19 and 20 on your digital channels and in your communications. Please read “A Federal Grant Assurance Primer: What is Really Required of Airports and FBOs” (page 37), “Viewpoint: Gaining Altitude on Value” (page 11) and “The Myths of FBO Consolidation” (page 65) to gain an even broader understanding of the industry.

Again, demonstrating NATA’s commitment to collaboration, we are pleased to be an integral part of an industry initiative to promote the use of sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF). The enclosed guide covers the technical, regulatory, operational and financial considerations of SAJF for FBOs, owners and operators. As SAJF is in its introductory phase, the industry must continue to work together to make its widespread use a reality. SAJF provides benefits by reducing emissions and enhancing the sustainability of business aircraft, contributing to corporate social responsibility policy objectives. In 2009, the industry committed to the following: achieving carbon-neutral growth by 2020, improving fuel efficiency by 2% per year from 2010 until 2020 and reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, relative to 2005. This initiative is a significant step forward in reaching these goals. I encourage you to read the guide, share it at your facility and contact your fuel supplier to find out more about SAJF.

Also included in this issue (page 71), is NATA’s “Statement Regarding Ethical Conduct” for general aviation businesses—outlining the Association’s ongoing commitment to promoting the highest ethical standards and integrity throughout the industry. NATA’s Board of Directors firmly believes that general aviation businesses should adhere to the principles of Safety, Integrity, Accountability and Respect. NATA strongly encourages all aviation businesses to establish and enforce a code of ethics using these four guiding principles. At our Annual Meeting and Conference in June, we will discuss NATA’s Statement Regarding Ethical Conduct—a set of standards borne of careful consideration and the fusion of decades of industry experience. We hope that it serves as a guide for our members and aviation businesses everywhere.
Our industry faces unprecedented change, including the integration of UAS in the national airspace system and the modernization of our nation’s air traffic control system through NextGen. General aviation must band together and focus on what’s best for our industry—sustainability of economic growth, reversing the pilot shortage, longterm reauthorization and our  industry’s reputation as safe, accountable and respectful.

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