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.


Greetings From Washington

October 30, 2015

There are many exciting things happening at NATA so let’s jump right in.

NATA Purchases the Independent FBO Association (IFBOA)
As we prepare to celebrate NATA’s 75th birthday in December of this year, our future is bright and getting brighter every day. We all look forward to our next 75 years and the key to our enduring success will always be our membership staying informed, engaged and focused on the future. A key component of that continued success is our recent announcement that NATA purchased the Independent Fixed Base Operators Association (IFBOA). On January 16th, we announced a “strategic relationship” with the IFBOA. This gave both teams the time to work through the details of how the merged organizations would more closely coordinate and in some cases, integrate activities.

It is certainly a reasonable question to ask why NATA and IFBOA made this move. Fundamentally, IFBOA was very successful at building a growing organization that featured some highly attractive products and services for its membership—particularly its Workers’ Compensation Insurance product. Additionally, in conversations with many current and former NATA members, a consistent theme emerged of the perception that independent FBOs, not affiliated with a larger chain, did not feel their voices were being heard by NATA.

Over the last three years, NATA worked deliberately to address these concerns. Specifically, NATA recently teamed with AirSure Limited, whose proven track record at bringing highly desirable insurance products to our industry is unmatched. Next, your NATA board of directors actively recruited independent FBO operators to serve on the board to ensure NATA’s policy decisions strike the right balance across the wide range of our regular members. The purchase of IFBOA culminates a huge effort that is already bringing great benefits to all members. Read more about this move in the article on page 27 in this edition of the Aviation Business Journal. In short:

  • Together we are much stronger. Speaking with one unified voice in Washington and elsewhere makes NATA’s advocacy much more effective
  • We will retain the IFBOA brand and continue to bring tailored products, services and advocacy to these non-affiliated FBOs
  • For 2016, the membership dues structure will be completely aligned with most small businesses (under 11 employees) seeing a dues reduction
  • NATA’s board of directors remains committed to a highly diverse representation structure on the NATA board with small, independent FBOs continuing to provide a strong voice on independent business issues

Personally, I feel many in the aviation community are suffering from a bad case of “group think” that pillories both the institution of the FAA and its thousands of highly skilled and dedicated employees.  Others continue to draw false comparisons with countries that have modernized from, in some cases, systems with no or very rudimentary forms of aircraft surveillance (i.e. – no radars – and the attendant poor safety records).

All Hands on Deck
It’s an incredibly busy time in Washington and our lobbying staff is fully engaged in ensuring the process of Congress reauthorizing the FAA keeps aviation business interests on their radar screen. Bill Deere, our Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs, is leading the effort to ensure the House and the Senate fully understand the vital role that general aviation businesses play in their states, districts and local communities. Please be prepared to provide your personal support in reaching out to the key decision-makers as this process unfolds. These opportunities (and risks) come around about every 3-5 years and delivering a focused message to your elected representatives is key to ensuring we achieve the best possible outcomes.

The Value of NATA Membership
Aviation businesses join and retain their memberships in NATA for a host of reasons. Many of our members possess an understanding that no other organization in Washington is solely dedicated to “protecting and championing” the interests of aviation businesses in Washington. Others rely on our “gold standard” Safety 1st training products to ensure their businesses are achieving the highest levels of aviation safety available anywhere. And still others join or retain their membership for one of our other products and services like the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program or IFBOA’s much-heralded Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program. New programs like NATA Aviation Solutions, our new deeply discounted NATA membership shipping program with PartnerShip® and the Safety 1st Digital Emergency Response System continue to deliver value across a wide spectrum of member needs. Whatever the reasons are for choosing to join NATA, we will continue to adapt to our membership’s desires as our industry and members’ needs evolve. If you’ve got some new ideas, please call or email us with ways we can better serve you.

Our two most recent conferences are great examples of this needed adaptability. In June, we conducted a highly successful Aviation Business Conference in Washington. According to the feedback from those that attended, this was one of the most highly successful and relevant NATA conferences ever conducted. And the just completed Aviation Business Roundtable, with it’s strategic, policy-level focus for senior executives delivered great insights into key political, economic and strategic topics that will uniquely guide key decisions for senior business leaders in the coming months.

In closing, the entire NATA staff is committed to the belief that as your operating environments and businesses change in the coming years, your trade association must remain agile and adaptable to meet those needs into the future. As always, the key to our success is remaining focused on our members; thus, being engaged, communicating with our staff and letting us know when you see turbulence ahead is something that I ask all of our members to continue to be resolute about. This is your trade association and we continue to be on course and climbing!

Republished from Q3 Aviation Business Journal