Inside the Fence

On SMS, some airline comments, and vengeance in Austin ...

Safety management systems have been on airports’ radar screen for some time, as FAA pursues guidelines for industry to catch up to international standards. Mike O’Donnell of the FAA’s airport standards division, speaking at the ACC/AAAE Planning, Design & Construction Symposium in Atlanta, says the agency should be out with its proposed guidance by year-end.Industry has been pretty much on standby on this issue, waiting for the definitive word from FAA.

Meanwhile, for several years NATA has been offering a comprehensive SMS training program to airport-based businesses. Initially the program was well attended, but has stalled of late. Explains NATA’s director of training Amy Koranda, “We have a tendency for people to come do it and move on. We were hopeful they would have more follow-through.”
While some of the dropoff in interest can be attributed to the economic times, Koranda says it would seem tenants are on pause as well. “I think that [FAA guidance] is what everybody is waiting for.”

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During an airline forum at the Atlanta meeting, reps from Delta and Continental offered some insights. Jay Turney of Delta says the carrier remains opposed to a raise in the PFC cap, something airports want badly. “It’s a tax to the customer that we’re not going to get back,” he says. “We have no control over it. It’s taxation without representation.” Of course, he failed to mention that every Delta customer that checked a bag that day had to pay a $25 handling fee.

Time for the carriers to get off that platform — that dog don’t hunt. We’re supposed to swallow that airlines will lose a bunch of customers if we raise the PFC to $7.50, but those same pax won’t blink an eye if they have to pay $50 or more to check a couple of bags.

When asked about potential other new incidental sources of revenue down the road for the carriers, Holden Shannon at Continental says one option might be to let customers pay for an empty seat next to them for a more comfortable flight. Or, another might be to charge for carry-on bags — seems the overhead bins are getting a bit tight.

Makes one wonder what math class airline execs attended.

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Finally, a GA pilot upset with the IRS recently decided to make a statement by crashing his light aircraft into the agency’s offices here in Austin.

In the aftermath, TSA has been surprisingly calm in its response, while some in Congress have been true to form, calling for investigations. Investigate what? As NATA’s Eric Byer notes in a recent blog, “It was a case of an individual committing a crime, and quite sadly, taking human life in the process.”

Consultant Lindsey McFarren, who once worked in TSA’s GA division, offers a reasoned analysis of the issue of GA security as well as the Austin incident on page 26.

Thanks for reading.