Two Years In – Continuing to Unlock NATA’s Value

September 25, 2014

Greetings from Washington!  NATA continues to make great progress in becoming a widely-admired, world-class trade association.  Advocacy is something hard to explain to “Main Street,” but without an advocate in the Washington policy arena, individual companies and industry segments run the risk of becoming victims of the process.  NATA is here to prevent that from happening and below are great examples of the value created by a strong, bi-partisan and member-driven trade association.

Improving safety performance is NATA’s most important responsibility.  We do this in several ways.  Our much-heralded Safety 1st program is helping lead the way in providing a wide array of tools for businesses to manage risk and prevent daily practices from crossing the line to unsafe conditions.  It’s working fabulously.  Under the leadership of Mike France, this program is widely recognized as the gold standard for properly training line service, supervisory and FBO leadership employees.  NATA worked with the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) to bring the Safety 1st Ground Audit Standard into the international realm by developing the International Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) Standard (see related article).  The international demand is building rapidly as businesses recognize the value created by a common set of standards accepted throughout the world.  NATA and IBAC are off to a very quick start in providing this groundbreaking standard for our industry.

In addition to the menu of programs offered through Safety 1st, NATA members are dominating the rankings for FBO excellence through two highly-regarded FBO surveys.  Annually, Aviation International News (AIN) and Professional Pilot (Pro Pilot) recognize the best FBOs in the business.  It is pretty obvious when analyzing the survey results that there are two common themes for success:  Most of the companies recognized are NATA members and the vast majority participate in NATA’s Safety 1st programs.

In the 2013 Pro Pilot Praise Survey, 91% of the Top FBOs were NATA Members and 86% used Safety 1st training.  Further, 85% of Independent FBOs were NATA members and 80% used Safety 1st.  The 2012 survey was a different format. That survey only named the 10 Best FBOs and all of them were NATA members and Safety 1st participants.

Similarly, of the AIN FBO Survey winners in 2014, 91% were NATA Members and 89% participated in Safety 1st.

Founded by NATA, the Air Charter Safety Foundation continues to provide programs that bring outstanding value for charter and corporate operators.  Most charter operators are familiar with the ACSF Industry Audit Standard, which is rapidly becoming a widely-accepted standard.  Additionally, one of the most exciting new programs is the development of Aviation Safety Action Programs for both charter and corporate operators.  Focusing on safety in all realms that our businesses operate, both ground and air, ensures NATA retains the “high ground” when speaking on behalf of our industry.

These results are no coincidence and point squarely to the acceptance of NATA, Safety 1st and the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) as key value generators that no other trade association can bring to bear.  NATA continues to invest on refreshing our online training offerings to provide the most up-to-date content and relevance and the ACSF is an emerging, industry-leading voice for aviation safety.

There are many other examples of the great strides NATA is making for our industry.

  • NATA and our sister organization, NATA Compliance Services are now providing the Known Crewmember® Program to all U.S. Part 135 and 125 pilots and flight attendants.  This nearly two-year effort will bring tremendous value to over 50,000 U.S. crewmembers.
  • NATA formed and led the California AvGas Coalition that most recently completed a multi-year strategy to successfully settle this very onerous case against California FBOs and fuel suppliers.
  • Along with other General Aviation associations, NATA is helping fund the cost of providing a co-executive director of the Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative.  The FAA recently announced several contenders for the next phase of this critically-important initiative.
  • NATA is a key player in discussions about the future structure of the FAA.  I was interviewed by the FAA Management Advisory Council on this topic and will ensure that General Aviation’s voice remains strong, relevant and opposed to any model that imposes user fees.
  • NATA has established a very robust and constructive dialogue with both the IRS and Treasury Department on the imposition of Federal Excise Taxes on certain aspects of aircraft management agreements.  We were able to coordinate a key meeting between FAA lawyers, IRS and Treasury to enable them to better understand the complex way in which U.S. aviation businesses are regulated.

There is much to be proud of with our accomplishments these last two years.  Not only do NATA’s finances remain strong and sustainable, but we continue to build our reputation as honest brokers in Washington and elsewhere through quiet, solution-driven strategies.  It is paying off very well for you, our members.

At NATA, we’ve created numerous industry-leading policies including ethics, conflict of interest, equal employment, financial stewardship and most importantly, governance.  Your Board of Directors is made up of volunteer, highly-dedicated and very diverse industry interests.  They come from large and small companies, varying business types and geographically diverse areas so no one can say NATA only represents “X.”  The evidence is quite the contrary.  We represent aviation businesses of all types.  Period.  The value creation by NATA for aviation businesses is extraordinary – please help us get the word out about the importance of a strong industry voice in Washington, statehouses and international capitals.  Your continuing support is enabling our success!

In closing, here’s a question to ponder.  Why are some aviation businesses not members of NATA?  I like to say a trade association is somewhat like an insurance policy in that “you only need it when you really need it.”  Well, for those that support our efforts, the value is clear.  Examples of real value creation are above.  But, we need your help in reaching out to colleagues in the industry who aren’t supporting NATA.  These non-members continue to enjoy the benefits of advocacy that NATA brings because our work is industry-focused.  The question really is: “Are they paying their fair share?”  Is advocacy “someone else’s problem?”  The answer to both questions is clearly “no.”  Our industry collectively owns this vitally important role.  Please help us grow our membership by reaching out to your colleagues and telling them about the value NATA continues to deliver every day to our members.

Greetings from Washington!

July 2, 2014

NATA is off to a great start in 2014 and there’s much activity to update our membership on.

We’re thrilled with the arrival of Bill Deere as our Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs. Bill brings a wealth of Washington policy experience with him. He comes to NATA from the U.S. Telecom Association and did previous stints at the Department of State as a Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for Senate liaison, two tours at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in their government affairs shop and also as a member of the staff of Iowa Representative Jim Lightfoot. It was here that Bill gained valuable expertise working with the House Appropriations Committee. This experience will serve NATA and our members well as we approach key legislation, including the upcoming reauthorization of the FAA. Bill and his lovely wife, Theresa, reside in Silver Spring, Maryland, so Bill is very much looking forward to an easier commute with our move to Washington.

Speaking of the move, we were very pleased to sell our current location last fall and are currently leasing that facility until we move. Our new location is in the heart of Washington, on Connecticut Avenue, one half block from Lafayette Park and the White House. We’ll be right across the street from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So, if you’re in the area, please plan to stop by our new home! Our architect is designing some extra space for members to “hang their hats” when they’re in the DC area. This move is part of our strategic repositioning in Washington and will serve us well for the long term.

Here’s a quick rundown on what we’ve been working on so far this year:

• We instituted our new Member Support Level Program in January. Our aim was to “unbundle” our products and services and permit our members to have more of a choice in how they support NATA. This has been a great success and we’re seeing more and more companies select the levels of support that provide the most value for their individual businesses, all while receiving significant discounts.

• February included a meeting with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx where we had a full discussion on NATA’s mission and the importance of General Aviation to the nation’s economy; and we offered NATA’s help in developing and implementing policies that improve aviation safety and help our members win in the marketplace. I was also fortunate to attend the Bob Hoover gala that included a dinner where several notable inductees entered the Hoover Hall of Honor, followed the next evening by a tribute and the premier of a Paramount Documentary of Bob’s lifetime achievements. Bob is a legend in our aviation world and it was an honor to join many other heroes such as astronauts Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan and Buzz Aldrin. Several key NATA members were also in attendance.

• March started off quickly with the Aviation Business and Legislative Conference. Although we were challenged by miserable weather in Washington, the event was a great success. Other visits that month included the Women in Aviation, International Conference in Orlando, a speech to the Minnesota Aviation Trades Association, and a panel at Aviation Pros Live in Las Vegas. While in Washington for a few days in between traveling, I was interviewed by the FAA’s Management Advisory Council on a wide range of issues, including the possibility of FAA structural reform, something that’s been gaining traction in Washington, D.C. policy circles.

• April began with my first visit to Sun ‘N Fun in Lakeland, Florida. It was a fabulous event! I flew down in a Saratoga and was on a Town Hall panel with the co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus, Representative Sam Graves (MO), AOPA President Mark Baker and HAI President Matt Zuccaro.

Just last month, we were once again excited to host a fundraising event for the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) and other veterans groups at the Air Charter Summit. Last year, working with VAC’s Chairman, CEO and Founder Walt Fricke, we raised over $20,000 for this incredibly worthy organization. I am proud to report that we raised nearly $50,000 this year. As a long-serving veteran, I have a special place in my heart for these groups. I spent nearly nine years on active duty in the Navy and another eighteen in the Air Force Reserve. In fact, the week before the Air Charter Summit, I joined my Navy squadron mates from 30 years ago for a reunion in Newport, RI. Our host was the squadron’s “youngster,” who is now a Rear Admiral and President of the Naval War College. Thirty years ago in April, we lost one of the finest fighter pilots, naval officers, fathers and gentlemen I’ve ever met. Lieutenant Commander Tim Murphy died in a tragic aircraft accident during a catapult shot in the Indian Ocean in month four of a five-month cruise to the Northern Arabian Sea. Tim had a wonderful wife and four young children and it was simply devastating to all involved. His entire family joined us in Newport in June to toast a few in “Muff’s” honor and memory. For veterans, our service is mostly defined by honor, fellowship and sacrifice. This is why our support of the VAC is so exciting, heartwarming and a privilege for us all. Please give this worthy cause your support!

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Back in the Saddle…….Again

March 27, 2014

It’s been over a year and a half since taking the reins as NATA’s new president. Just after arriving, I conducted several media interviews. One of those resulting articles, written by Paul Lowe at AIN was titled, “Hendricks Takes Over Left Seat at NATA.” It was a catchy metaphor but ended up having a bit more impact than expected. For reasons not clear at the time, Paul’s headline nagged at me a bit until I realized how much I’ve been missing being in a real left seat. With numerous visits to NATA members now complete, it’s clear that there is indeed a shared passion for this great industry. Our members are living it every day. As the leader of our association, learning from those “closer to the action” is providing great value and perspective.

As most of you know, my background prior to arriving at NATA was in commercial and military aviation. Even though I began my flying in 1973 in General Aviation (GA), it had been decades since I’d spent much time flying around the pattern and talking on Unicom. As a firm believer in the crawl- walk- run approach to unfamiliar things, I’ve greatly benefited from time spent listening to and learning with NATA members about flying once again in the GA environment. Add to this the amazing array of personal devices available to improve situational awareness and improve safety margins, and it can be intimidating.

Another emerging theme for a “new guy” is the cutting-edge work being done by several flight training organizations. Companies like Redbird, ATP and others are filling a vital need for our industry and ensuring we attract and retain people bitten with the aviation bug like the rest of us. From our members, there is much discussion on the challenges of operating successful flight training businesses and continued concern over the cost of flight training, including our limited supply of future aviation professionals. Last fall, I was invited out to the AV-ED Flight School in Leesburg, Virginia, to fly some profiles in their Cessna 172 Redbird simulator which was equipped with a very capable glass cockpit EFIS. The motion, visual, avionics and quality of the instruction was something I’d never before seen in GA. The last simulators I’d been exposed to were Level-D full-motion sims for B-767s and 757s.For the price, simplicity and ease of use, the Redbird device seemed the perfect balance between affordability, capability and adaptability of our training paradigm to suit a more tech-savvy generation of aviators.

After this experience, I reached out to Todd Willinger, Redbird’s CEO to arrange a visit to his company in Texas. On display, at both their Austin headquarters and training facility in San Marcos, was unbridled entrepreneurship and world-class innovation. The founders of Redbird certainly have the vision and hunger to fundamentally change the way we train in General Aviation. Frankly, it made me proud that we live in a country where bright people with bright ideas can take risks and create something so innovative. And, Redbird is just one example of NATA members probing and building new ways to develop innovative and sustainable flight training business models.

So where is this leading? Well, after a nearly four-year absence from regular flying, I’ve finally jumped back into the space where our membership resides every day. Last summer, Dan Montgomery and Bobby Beem of Montgomery Aviation, very active NATA members, gave me a tour of their business operations and granted a little right-seat time in the Cessna 310Q, flying around Central and Northern Indiana. In the military, we used to joke about the new guys having “100-knot minds in a 400-knot world.” This is exactly how I felt with Dan and Bobby; but the old desire and instincts were beginning to awaken from a deep hibernation. Late last year, I was also able to fly a couple of hours in a PA-46 Malibu with Dave Conover at SkyTech in Westminster, Maryland. SkyTech is also a very active NATA member; and spending time there with John Foster was very insightful. But, the Malibu flying was a blast and cemented in my mind that the time had come to get serious about getting back in the saddle.

I’m happy to report that I’ve passed my first flight review after a four-year absence and also knocked out an instrument proficiency check. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been superb, professional and enthusiastic. This is extremely energizing for a graying pilot like myself. It’s also been good to listen to a lot of great advice from many highly experienced pilots. As a commercial pilot, weather cancellations for aircraft limitations were rare. For the most part, the aircraft were capable of operating in almost any IMC condition. Other factors such as runway, airspace, NAVAIDs and airport availability most often limited operations. I’ve gotten a great deal of sage advice on changing this mindset as I settle back into GA flying. “Just say no” is a refrain that’s come across loud and clear. The new paradigm I’m coming to grips with, in the class of aircraft I’m flying, is that the aircraft can indeed be the most limiting factor. Checking one’s ego and being willing to accept occasional disruptions is a must to ensure safety is never compromised.

In the meantime, I hope to see you as I cruise around in a rented Saratoga HP. I’ve already got my iPad Mini with Foreflight and an ADS-B box in the aircraft and it is amazing to see the wonderful information available at our fingertips. Even though the new technology is utterly impressive, what amazes me the most is how many bright, motivated and friendly people I continue to encounter when I’m out visiting with our members. This truly is a special segment of aviation and I’m thrilled and re-energized by the entire experience. Fly Safely! Tom

Article first appeared in NATA’s first quarter Aviation Business Journal. Click here to read more.


A Year In Review

January 2, 2014

It has been more than a year since Tom Hendricks assumed the presidency of NATA and brought in the leadership team to assure NATA’s future as a powerful advocate for general aviation in Washington. That has meant not only a change at the top, but also some course corrections which are already making a difference. To understand some of the changes made and some in-the-works under the association’s new management, the Aviation Business Journal conducted a series of wide-ranging interviews with NATA President Tom Hendricks, NATA Board Chairman Michael Scheeringa, Vice Chairman Gary Dempsey and Treasurer Marian Epps.

ABJ: When you became NATA President, what did you perceive to be the state of the organization at the time, and the primary challenges within the association which required your immediate attention?

Hendricks: In preparation for taking the job of NATA President, I did a considerable amount of research on NATA, and found that it had a rich history, and serves a vital function on behalf of the general aviation industry within the United States. What I wanted to do was to build on this. But, in doing that, it also meant building on the relationships NATA had with the aviation regulatory agencies, as well as Capitol Hill. I also looked at NATA’s organizational structure to make sure it could take us to the next level. I examined NATA’s financial foundation, and saw that it had a very strong balance sheet. At the same time, I wanted to see how we could leverage the kind of talent we had recruited. So, I focused on a thorough structural review and planning process after I arrived. From that, our team developed a strategic plan and we aligned all of our activities with that plan—specifically based on a common direction—and a way to measure our success.

ABJ: Can you tell me about the objectives of the strategic plan?

Hendricks: First of all, we defined the mission and values of NATA, and created a vision for what the association was here to do and what we wanted to achieve. Because I want NATA to be focused on our members, I saw our mission as one that would empower them to become the most successful and the safest aviation businesses. For example, we put together new safety initiatives through the Safety 1st Program and the Air Charter Safety Foundation, and we focused on member advocacy through legislative and regulatory agency engagement. We wanted to increase NATA’s presence and profile in Washington, DC, and to review our membership structure. In fact, this is something we are doing right now. We also set out to build NATA into a high-performance organization. To do this, we looked at ways to avoid conflict of interest, developed a new code of ethics, and looked at employment opportunity. We have implemented those initiatives within the organization and have completely rewritten our employee manual to reflect what we are trying to do.

ABJ: What are some of the programs NATA has either implemented or built upon since you became President?

Hendricks: We rolled out the new NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program™ through Beacon Aviation Insurance Services, as well as an Aviation Legal Services program. We also introduced a new NATA Professional Employer Organization (PEO) program which, for a monthly fee, provides a large share of back-office functions. This will enable our members to concentrate more on their expertise, and outsource payroll, accounting, billing and other back office activities, through a partnering arrangement with Oasis Outsourcing, Inc. We have marketed this to our members under the name “NATA People Solutions.” Last year, we added a new aircraft flight coordinator training program, and brought the NATA supervisor training course online. And, at the request of a member, we translated the NATA Professional Line Services Training program into French—making a foreign language version available for the first time.

ABJ: There have been some staff changes since you became President. Can you tell us about that?

Hendricks: Early in my tenure, it was very apparent that Amy Koranda’s talents weren’t being utilized to their fullest, which is why I promoted her to Vice President, Operations, from Director of Safety and Training. Also, I saw a need for someone to work the regulatory agencies—specifically the FAA and the TSA. For that, I hired John McGraw to be Director of Regulatory Affairs. He interfaces with the FAA and TSA, as well as with our state advocacy networks.

ABJ: Has NATA’s approach to working with Congress and the regulatory agencies undergone any changes since you became President?

Hendricks: We are now more engaged with Capitol Hill and the regulatory agencies. Our philosophy today is that we must build long-term, constructive relationships with regulators and legislators, which means taking a positive approach. Wearer being good listeners who are more solution oriented.

ABJ: Have you forged a closer working relationship with the principal aviation advocacy groups in Washington?

Hendricks: Yes. We are interacting more with the leadership of those associations, which has helped to raise NATA’s profile. Across all segments of aviation, we are in agreement on all the big issues, and focus on what we agree upon, not on what we don’t.

ABJ: Over the past year, what legislative or regulatory priorities did you identify on which NATA needed to focus, on behalf of its members?

Hendricks: We worked with other aviation associations to build the House General Aviation Caucus. Currently, 235members of the US House of Representatives have signed onto the General Aviation Caucus. We also spent a lot of time talking about the tax burden on our members, and have worked to ensure that there will never be a $100.00 user fee imposed on general aviation, which has been proposed. The Administration admitted that this additional tax would go toward general deficit reduction rather than improving the aviation infrastructure. Of course, we also worked closely with the IRS to reverse its position on Federal Excise Tax (FET) applications to amounts paid by an aircraft owner to an aircraft management company with respect to that owner’s use of his own aircraft in Part91 operations. The IRS position, we argued, was contrary to several longstanding commercial FET rulings, which said that the FET does not apply to a Part 91 operation carried out by the management company for the aircraft owner. As a result, last May, the IRS suspended potential assessments associated with current ongoing audits of aircraft management companies regarding FET liability, and promised to move forward to issue new guidelines on FET applications to this issue. The other challenge was sequestration, under which 149 contract towers were slated for closure, and the people who manned those towers were going to be furloughed. Last spring, we were able to work with Congress and the FAA to stop that from happening. Now that the new federal fiscal year is upon us, we continue to monitor this situation very closely.

ABJ: The Airline Services Council (ASC) is a component o f NATA. Are any changes anticipated with regard to it?

Hendricks: We want to grow the membership and make sure we are doing as much as possible to advocate for this group. For example, we have worked with the ASC members on TSA issues. Keep in mind, although TSA’s regulatory authority more directly impacts the airlines, it could also impact ASC members, given their support of airline operations.

ABJ: When you became NATA President, how many members did it have? What steps have you taken to increase that number?

Hendricks: Last year, we had approximately 2,000members. We want to grow this significantly in the coming years, and we are making a major effort to do that. In fact, we are seeing a healthy influx of new members. Historically, NATA has been viewed as representing FBOs, charter/management companies, fuel services, flight schools and maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) organizations. But, in an effort to grow our membership, we have modified the bylaws to establish more membership categories, in order to engage all businesses that operate at airports.

ABJ: Looking ahead, what are the challenges to the general aviation industry you will be confronting in your second year as NATA President?

Hendricks: At the top of this list is the economy which is still tepid. This is why we will be closely watching any proposed legislation and regulations that can financially impact our members. At the same time, we want to do a better job of educating the public about the importance of general aviation to the U.S. economy. Long term, we are working with the FAA on finding an alternative to leaded avgas, and we are definitely looking at ways to expand our Safety 1st program to address safety and performance improvements. In order to underscore the importance of the relationships between airports and airport businesses, we expanded our Board of Directors to include an airport representative. We appointed Clara Bennett, who is Director of the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, because we believe we can leverage her knowledge of the relationships between airport authorities, and others who are engaged in businesses at airports.

ABJ: I understand that NATA is planning to sell its headquarters building in northern Virginia in order to move into Washington, D.C., proper. Can you comment on that?

Hendricks: Yes. We closed on the sale of our headquarters building at the end of October 2013, but will lease the building back for an additional year to give us the time to find a suitable location in Washington, where we can establish a world class meeting and headquarters facility. Prompting this is our belief that we need a stronger presence in Washington; and by having our headquarters in the city, our legislative and regulatory team will be able to interface more efficiently with members of Congress, as well as with the regulatory agencies and their staffs, and the staffs of other aviation associations. We want to make it easier for those people to have access to NATA staff.

ABJ: Anything more you’d like to add?

Hendricks: I’m very positive about our direction and our staff and how we are being perceived in Washington.

Click here to read this ABJ Q4 article in its entirety.

Working For You

November 13, 2013

Things are finally returning to normal in Washington now that last month’s government shutdown is over.

As you all know very well, the shutdown hurt the general aviation industry and cost our members jobs and revenue. We heard from many of you – loud and clear – and as a result, we went to work on your behalf. This feedback allowed us to take your stories to Capitol Hill, where Jim Coon joined others in our industry calling on Congress to reopen the government. We also joined general aviation leaders in writing a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, urging him to reopen the FAA’s aircraft registry. Our messages were clear. General Aviation commerce is grinding to a halt and action is needed now.

Looking ahead, we must move forward. NATA, along with our industry colleagues, have pledged to help the FAA prioritize its requests for approval, so that the most important ones are completed first. In addition, we are working with the FAA to reduce the impact of federal shutdowns should they occur in the future. This effort is in the good hands of our seasoned head of regulatory affairs, John McGraw.

On another front, NATA was asked to testify about the FAA’s aircraft certification process before the House Aviation Subcommittee. I told the committee that many of our members are concerned about a lack of consistent interpretation in the FAA’s operational approval processes. I stressed that when the FAA does not apply regulations consistently, it can affect the competitiveness of companies. It also can cause confusion and force aviation companies to redirect limited human and monetary resources – resources that would be better spent on improving aviation safety.

Another topic covered in the testimony was our industry’s concern about the existing outdated certification processes that hamper the introduction of new technology. The rapid evolution of modern technology is, in many cases, outpacing the FAA’s legacy certification processes. New standards need to be performance-based, so that the industry can quickly innovate without the FAA having to change the rules each time technology advances. The FAA has already seen success with this method for small aircraft, and we believe similar success is possible for larger general aviation and commercial aircraft.

NATA will continue to urge key decision-makers to work expeditiously to resolve issues that you bring to our attention.

I want to thank you for letting us know how the shutdown impacted your businesses and your bottom line.

Please remember that, when we speak with one voice, we are a potent voice in Washington and around the country.


Year 1 Report: On Course and Climbing

September 9, 2013

Well, it’s been one year since I took over the helm at the National Air Transportation Association and I thought it was a good time to update our members on where we’ve come and where we’re headed!

In the past year, we have made many positive changes toward making our organization more responsive to the needs of our members. We brought in top-notch leadership with Jim Coon from the Hill and John McGraw from FAA, reorganized and consolidated our committees under the watchful eye of Amy Koranda, and began implementing a new strategic plan. We are offering new membership benefits as well as bolstering our safety programs.

I have also spent a lot of time on the road, updating our members in Van Nuys, talking air safety in Moline, strategizing with industry leaders in OshKosh, and attending the Tarkio airshow. I was able to meet many of you during my travels and participate in a number of lively town halls at airports around the country. Visits like these are invaluable and enable me to learn firsthand what’s on your mind.

We continue to work hard taking your aviation industry concerns straight to the decision makers on Capitol Hill. And we are tackling a number of issues that affect our member businesses – airport and land use, security, taxation, aircraft noise and emissions, and other priorities that arise – both at the federal and state level.

The federal excise tax issue is one area where we have made considerable progress. We are working closely with the IRS to address new interpretations of tax laws that are detrimental to air charter and aircraft management businesses. FETs are now on the IRS Guidance Priorities List, which will enable government officials to move more quickly in resolving this matter.

NATA continues to oppose the $100 departure fee on certain segments of aviation. And we will continue to sound the alarm about a looming pilot shortage across the entire industry. One of our top priorities is to do all we can to attract, train and retain the next generation of aviation professionals to the profession that we all love.

Looking ahead, we are closely watching Congress. It is our hope that the House and Senate will soon pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government beyond the fiscal year, which ends on September 30. Beyond that is sequestration. Earlier this year, NATA helped to lead a strong grassroots effort to keep open 149 contract towers that were slated to close as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s sequestration plans. Congress passed legislation that allowed the agency to move funds to keep the towers open until the end of the fiscal year. But sequestration will last another nine years unless Congress and the Administration reach an alternative budget agreement. It doesn’t look like this will be resolved any time soon.

You can rest assured that NATA will continue to work with our contacts in other aviation associations and on Capitol Hill to find a more permanent solution to this problem.

Of course to some of you, what goes on at the federal level isn’t your biggest concern. That is why we continue to work with our partners in the State Advocacy Network to address burdensome regulations and legislation at the state and local level that affect your bottom line.

While we make changes to provide better service to our members, some things will never change. NATA will continue to make safety our top priority. We have updated our successful Safety 1st program, and have launched the Supervisor Online Training as well as our online Aircraft Flight Coordinator Training.

As we move forward, NATA will do whatever we can to help shape policies and legislation that safeguard our members’ ability to win in the marketplace and we will educate local, state, and federal elected officials about the vital role aviation businesses play in their communities. And above all, we will continue to be the voice of aviation business.

As always, thanks for your steadfast support. I hope to hear from you. Please let us know how we can help!


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From Oshkosh and Tarkio: Air Shows, Barbecues and Fellowship with Aviation Enthusiasts

August 2, 2013

After a successful NATA Board of Directors Meeting in Minneapolis in early July, I had an opportunity to travel to Tarkio, Missouri where House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves hosted a fly-in and air show in his hometown. Now, I have to admit I had never been to Tarkio, but it was a fabulous venue that showcased the passion and diversity of our great general aviation community.  From war birds to Stearmans to aerobatic helicopters, it was fantastic to smell a little avgas and jet fuel in my nostrils once again.  And the aviation stories and the barbecue were great too!

While in Tarkio, I participated in an aviation panel with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger and the leaders of most of today’s general and business aviation associations. 

This week, I spoke on another panel at the EAA’s 2013 AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  AirVenture is one of the best events of the year and it always reminds me just why I first started flying many years ago.  During  my presentations both in Tarkio and Oshkosh, I took a few minutes to discuss the critical role that NATA members play in building their businesses at our country’s airports.  Our members are job creators.  And NATA is here every day engaging in the legislative and regulatory processes because we fully understand the impact that laws and rules have on your bottom line. At both gatherings, I also talked about the importance of the entire aviation community working together to ensure that we can successfully drive aviation policies.  Our nation must have a vibrant aviation system that spans all spectrums – from experimental, to business, to commercial.  It is critically important not just for our associations’ members, but to our nation’s economy. 

Ben Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  The same is true in Washington on policy matters that affect our industry.  Today, the leaders of general aviation associations recognize the need to work more closely than ever before.  This means more frequent and robust communications between our association leaders, staffs, and members.  We are already seeing success using this strategy.

When I wrapped up my talks at AirVenture and Congressman Graves’ fly in, I spoke of educating our policy makers and the general public on the vital importance of aviation to our nation’s economy, of developing and introducing aviation to young people, of building a strong culture of safety and responsibility, and of our need to focus and work together for the future of our great aviation community.  This is our formula for winning in the future.  I’ll be making several member visits and participating in town hall events in the coming weeks and months.  I look forward to smelling some more avgas and eating some more barbecue.  Check out our website at for the dates.  If you are in the area, please stop by.  Thanks for your steadfast support and please let us know how we can help! 


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