NATA — Growing and Evolving To Meet Our Members’ Needs

October 3, 2017

As I reach the end of my first year at the helm of NATA, I want to report to you on how I see the state of the association, particularly in the context of my inaugural remarks to you.

Our first and highest responsibility to you is fiduciary. While NATA is a trade association, it is also a business, and for this enterprise to be successful we must operate in a responsible manner. On that front, I am very pleased. As we enter the final quarter of 2017, NATA is in excellent financial shape, a combination of conservative budgeting and the augmentation of member dues with products and services that help you compete in the marketplace.

While our Safety 1st program continues to provide industry-leading ground handling training, we are not resting on our laurels. The NATA Safety Committee and association staff are hard at work on the refresh of Safety 1st, ensuring its enviable status as the gold standard in ground handling training will continue for the foreseeable future. I am proud of our recently concluded, first-ever, Ground Handling Safety Symposium, because it represents what I think is the best of NATA—an association growing and evolving to meet our members’ needs.

The Symposium was developed by our Safety Committee to explore the challenges of ground handling in a collaborative environment, allowing participants to interact with experts and industry colleagues. It wasn’t just about spending a day and a half listening to speakers, the Symposium included open forum discussions led by members of the Committee.

Other members take advantage of our Workers Compensation Insurance Programs, underwritten by industry leaders Allianz and QBE, both featuring a good experience return. In other words, a safe year for plan participants means a rebate, which has been averaging more than 20 percent for our over 800 company participants.

On the Part 135 side, we offer the industry products, including loss of license insurance and access to Known Crewmember® through NATA Compliance Services. Programs like these help our charter operators compete in a very demanding market to attract and retain pilots.

These products are developed in consultation with our members and that requires us to hit the road, making sure our contact with the membership goes beyond the association’s policy committees to include input from members in every region of the country. I made that a priority for 2017, asking my two Executive Vice Presidents, Bill Deere and Tim Obitts to join me on the road. Tim and Bill pursued that with enthusiasm, among other things working with the Air Charter Committee to launch a series of well-received NATA Air Charter and Industry Town Halls. From Portland, OR to Greenville, SC to Chicago, IL to Dallas, TX, we have listened to your concerns and taken the opportunity to share the value proposition of NATA membership. I am particularly proud that our recent success resolving a compliance issue stopping air charter operators from adding Pilatus PC-12 aircraft to their certificates was a direct result of member interaction at an NATA Town Hall.

Our products and services are the “currency” through which we provide advocacy and, believe me, aviation businesses are in the midst of a very challenging year on the advocacy front. NATA, along with other leading general aviation associations, are in a battle with the airlines over the future management of the air traffic control system. To lose this fight—for the airlines to, in essence, take over management of the air traffic control system—I believe would forever change general aviation as we know it in this country. Let me acknowledge the attendees at NATA’s Aviation Business Conference in June, who took time out of their schedules to travel to Capitol Hill and visit with lawmakers, sharing the concerns of the entire aeronautical service provider community.

That is not our only advocacy challenge. We have been confronting an attack on aviation businesses from within the general aviation community itself, an initiative by a national pilot organization to impose economic regulation on FBO pricing. While we will continue to meet rhetoric with fact-based response, I believe this diverts precious time and resources away from the issue on which we should be united—the threat to general aviation posed by the airlines.

If we do not prevail in this struggle, it will likely render moot any further discussions about the pricing of general aviation services.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that NATA’s advocacy is purely defensive. In fact, I am pleased to report that our member-driven advocacy is also showing positive results, at both the FAA and on Capitol Hill.

All in all, it has been quite a first year for me as your president. I want to thank you for your ongoing support of me and the association. As we move forward together, please know that hearing from you with your concerns and ideas is both important and necessary to the ongoing success of NATA and our industry.

Republished from the 2017 Q3 Aviation Business Journal.


The Leading Voice of Aviation Business

June 23, 2017

Since taking the helm at NATA, I have come to recognize that our members join the association for a variety of reasons. Some take advantage of the products and services we provide to help their business run safely and successfully. Others find participation in our policy committees or two annual industry conferences an important part of their interaction with, and opportunity to give back to, the industry. Advocacy does not always rise to a first-order consideration. It’s difficult to quantify, though many members recognize the behind-thescenes advocacy work of an association often prevents bad ideas from taking root, still other members see it as a type of insurance—there when you need it. Right now, advocacy is more important than ever, as NATA members confront proposals that threaten our industry from both within the general aviation community and as well as from without.

Bill Deere’s column this quarter discusses how the nation’s airlines proffer various myths as facts in their quest to create an air traffic control corporation. Tim Obitts looks at a legal aspect to NATA advocacy, our recent Supreme Court filing in support of a member company caught up in the IRS interpretation of the applicability of Federal Excise Taxes to aircraft management services. Unfortunately, I need to discuss a threat to our industry from within, specifically the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) assertions that FBOs and airports are maximizing their respective revenue streams in a manner that is unfair to pilots. Despite the best efforts of NATA, its member companies and others in the general aviation community, AOPA is requesting the FAA require either FBOs to provide no-cost access to ramps and facilities or airports to provide pilots with free public ramp space.

For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, in late November of last year, the FAA met with Bill and his regulatory team, and informed them that AOPA planned to meet with the agency in December to discuss FBO pricing. That meeting occurred in late December, and shortly after the holidays, NATA was contacted by the FAA requesting we provide our perspective. AOPA’s documents (which we have posted online at http://www.nata.aero) revealed an eleven-month campaign and included a cursory review of leases at a select few public-use airports, as well as pricing information derived from AirNav data, concluding:

  • Widespread FBO industry consolidation is harming the general aviation user
  • A compelling need exists to oversee the business relationship between airports and FBOs
  • Analogized FBOs to utilities—wants FAA to explore oversight mechanisms for prices.

In response to AOPA’s concerns, NATA presented an overview, “The State of the FBO Industry,” (also available on the frontpage of our website) to the FAA. The summary, developed with the assistance of our FBO and air charter members, discusses the costs of operating airport businesses and the many variables that go into determining pricing structure, including capital invested, lease duration, fuel volume, personnel expenses, hours of operation, and traffic types. The FAA is in the process of reviewing our comments as well as those from other stakeholders. I was proud of the NATA staff and members who helped develop our response. This is NATA and its members working in the best tradition of trade associations—meeting rhetoric with fact.

The May edition of AOPA’s Pilot magazine highlighted their FBO initiative and chose to attack the FAA for asking stakeholders to comment on its call for economic regulation of FBOs. The association even criticized NATA for bringing its eleven-month campaign to your attention.

As your president, I take seriously my responsibility to present the facts in a straightforward manner. NATA is not going to be the association that cries, “Wolf!” Despite claims to the contrary, AOPA’s documents speak for themselves. Its presentation compares FBOs to public utilities and requests the agency examine oversight mechanisms in other industries as possible models. That is a pure and straightforward move toward economic regulation. While it claims to support FBOs and the free market, there is no recognition of the fact that some locations require different pricing models. Among other things, the AOPA proposal requires FBOs to assume the security and safety liabilities associated with utilizing your business–without compensation. The decision to assess a facility charge, particularly when there are no purchases of fuel or services, should be yours and not imposed by law or regulation.

Importantly, there are existing FAA mechanisms to address situations where an FBO or airport is violating grant assurance requirements to furnish services on a “reasonable, and not unjustly discriminatory, basis to all users thereof.” Neither NATA nor its members support those violating that important assurance, which would also represent a breach of faith with their customers.

Many of you rightly ask whether I have met with Mark Baker, the President of AOPA. I have; and, while I do not believe it is appropriate to share confidential conversations or comments of others publicly, let’s simply say that, on this issue, we have significantly different positions. However, I can also attest that, on other important issues, the two associations continue their tradition of joint work toward the benefit of all general aviation.

Let me close by saying, “thank you.” I have been heartened by your ongoing support and am gratified by your continuing offers of assistance. Be assured NATA will continue to meet rhetoric with facts in support of free enterprise.

NATA is–and will remain–the leading voice of aviation business.

Republished from the 2017 Q2 Aviation Business Journal.


NATA’s New Aviation Business Conference – An Event For All Members

March 11, 2015

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NATA’s New Aviation Business Conference – An Event For All Members
LOCK IN YOUR EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION SAVINGS TODAY!

In June, NATA will host the inaugural Aviation Business Conference in Washington, D.C. This new conference combines the best of our previous Aviation Business & Legislative Conference and Air Charter Summit into one industry-wide event. The Aviation Business Conference provides important perspective, advice, access and information that directly benefit your businesses, including insights from key industry and government policymakers. A key feature of this event enables NATA members from each industry segment an opportunity to connect with one another and with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

The action-packed agenda includes sessions on the aviation business outlook, emergency response, social media and NextGen as well as sessions delivering information on the latest regulatory issues before the TSA and FAA. The conference also includes the popular Industry Excellence Awards Presentation Luncheon – an event to celebrate the best and brightest in the general aviation industry.

The conference kicks off with a panel of CEOs from general aviation’s leading associations, immediately followed by a Congressional Fly-In session at the U.S. Capitol. The aviation industry CEOs will share their insights on the current legislative and regulatory environment in Washington and set the stage for a successful Fly-In session with leading lawmakers. We are very excited to offer this rare look into NATA’s and Congress’ efforts on behalf of our industry.

In addition, the NATA Aviation Business Conference provides another unique opportunity to connect directly in a less formal atmosphere with your Members of Congress at the Congressional Reception on Tuesday evening at the U.S. Capitol. NATA represents the interests of our members on Capitol Hill every day but, in order to heighten our impact, we need your help to put a face to our industry. Visiting with your representatives helps demonstrate the vital importance of your business to your community as well as to the nation’s economy.

Finally, please take a few minutes to take advantage of our very attractive early bird registration rate. This will only be available for a short time; so please register to attend before this offer expires. We greatly value your support in helping make your voices heard in Washington.

Please Click to add the NATA Aviation Business Conference to your calendar.

Best Regards,

Tom


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!

Tom

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An Event For All Members

April 11, 2013

In less than two weeks, NATA will host its first Aviation Business & Legislative Conference in the Washington, D.C. area. This event is a rebrand and refocus of our FBO Leadership Conference that was held in previous years. The Aviation Business & Legislative Conference provides value and business and industry advice to all of our members. In addition, it affords our members from each constituency an opportunity to connect with one another.

We are looking forward to a full schedule of events that week in addition to the conference programming, including sessions on the business aviation outlook, generational leadership, disaster recovery and assistance and new healthcare laws as well as sessions providing information on the latest regulatory and legislative issues from the TSA, FAA and key senior Capitol Hill staff. Also included with the conference are the Industry Excellence Awards Dinner on Monday night and the Congressional Reception on Tuesday evening.

One of the most important aspects of this event is the unique opportunity to connect directly with your Members of Congress at the Congressional Reception on Tuesday evening at the US Capitol. NATA represents the interests of our members on Capitol Hill every day but, in order to heighten our impact, we need your help to put a face to the industry. Visiting with your representatives helps demonstrate the vital importance of your business to your community as well as to the Nation’s economy.

In addition, NATA will hold its Spring Committee Meetings on Wednesday following the conference. This is another important opportunity for our members to assist NATA in shaping the future of our association and to help bring important issues to the forefront of our agenda. Our committee members have always played a fundamental role in developing and testing products and training programs, setting the legislative and regulatory agenda, and providing benchmarks and support for other members. We look forward to seeing our committee members and, as always, our members are invited to attend the committee meetings as guests.

If you have not already done so, please register to attend. We appreciate your support and help in making your voice heard in Washington.