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.


A Time to Reflect… Now Let’s Focus On the Next 75 Years!

December 28, 2015

 

December 28, 2015 marks a very auspicious accomplishment for NATA. We are very pleased to celebrate our 75th Anniversary as the leading voice of aviation businesses in our country, and beyond. In this issue of the Aviation Business Journal, please take a few minutes to read about our storied history in a great article authored by Paul Seidenman & David J. Spanovich, “NATA – For 75 Years, The Voice of General Aviation Business.”

Reflecting back on the early days of what we know today as NATA, I remain amazed and proud that industry leaders—with a clear vision and mission—organized, united and led NATA’s members on a path that continues to ensure our voices are heard clearly in the aviation industry, the Halls of Congress, before federal agencies, and in the states. We will forever be indebted to William A. Ong, Leslie H. Bowman and many others whose vision and dedication remain the hallmarks of our association.

However, these great leaders truly owe their success—and the continuing success of NATA—to the scores of current and former volunteer leaders who over these past 75 years generously donated their time and resources to actively help guide our efforts. These volunteers include NATA board members, committee members and the many others we call upon to provide views on a host of issues. As I’ve repeatedly said over these last few years, this is your association and volunteering to participate helps guarantee our success well into the future. The NATA staff needs your expertise when advocating with our colleagues, at the FAA, and on Capitol Hill. Clear, well-defined policy priorities succeed when driven by NATA members.

Looking ahead, the future of NATA is bright as we embark on our next 75 years. There are several guideposts that will help ensure we remain relevant, respected and a valuable resource for our members and the nation’s policymakers.

  • Growing our suite of safety enhancing training products will be front and center moving forward. Safety 1st is recognized as the gold standard for general aviation businesses. NATA will continue to thoughtfully expand this highly beneficial program into other areas to ensure our members continue to enjoy cutting edge products that drive safety improvements and translate to the bottom line. This will become particularly more important considering FAA Administrator Michael Huerta’s commitment to moving the agency from an “enforcement” regime to one of “compliance.” This “sea change” dovetails extremely well with safety management principles now rapidly maturing. Even though the FAA’s philosophy shift will likely take years to fully implement, programs like Safety 1st will become ever more vital to ensuring our members properly manage risk in their businesses.
  • Moving forward, NATA must remain agile in a changing business environment, must stay relevant to both members and in policy debates in Washington and beyond and most importantly, must continue to be responsive to our members’ needs. We will work with NATA’s board to ensure our by-laws and organizational structure continue to demonstrate the
    most effectiveness and value for NATA’s members.
  • NATA will continue to actively manage strategic rela­tionships to ensure our voice is heard. We’ll do this by being good listeners, solution-oriented, non-partisan and closing on commitments we make. These are long-term commitments that will garner respect and influ­ence to ensure The Voice of Aviation Business remains a key player in Washington and beyond.
  • The recently announced purchase of the Independent Fixed Base Operators Association (IFBOA) is already jumpstarting our membership rolls and bringing a vitally important constituency to NATA, ensuring we truly speak as one voice on Capitol Hill. In the coming months, this move, along with our updated products and services will ensure we remain a vibrant and grow­ing trade association for many years to come.

In closing, it’s an honor to lead your trade association and to work with our highly dedicated NATA staff and volun­teers. This is a winning combination that is going to ensure our future remains bright. Please participate and remain engaged in NATA’s activities. We need your great ideas and guidance to help ensure The Voice of Aviation Business grows even stronger for our members!

Republished from Q4 2015 Aviation Business Journal


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!

Visit or return to NATA’s website: http://www.nata.aero