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.