In Support of Air Taxi Operators

New associations aim to make expanded role of air charter operators a (safe) reality.

The surge in Part 135 charter activity over the past decade and the expanding scope of aircraft being utilized for charter have given rise to three new associations over the past year. Their initial focus is on three major areas — safety, public policy, and promotion of the industry. Meanwhile, the group which historically has represented the interests of Part 135 air taxis, the National Air Transportation Association, has concurrently been boosting its focus on the industry sector, evidenced by the introduction last summer of NATA’s first annual Air Charter Summit. Here’s a quick review of the players and their developing agendas.

The Air Taxi Association (ATXA) came onto the scene June 21, 2007, aiming to “unite the air taxi industry and provide services to increase demand for personal air travel at business airline prices,” according to a press release. Also in June, the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) was established.

Then at the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association in September, the Next Generation Air Mobility Coalition (NGAMC) was formed, announcing its intent to “develop public policies unique to their emerging industry.”

The associations are separate entities, with some overlapping interests. DayJet, SATSAir and Linear Air are on the policy-setting board of ATXA and make up three of the five members listed on the initial NGAMC release. Dr. Bruce J. Holmes, director of Aeronautical Research at DayJet, serves as both the chairman of the board of ATXA and NGAMC’s representative on the Early Adopters Council of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JDPO) at FAA. [Dr. Holmes declined to be interviewed for this article.]

Building A Community, Audience
“The next generation air taxi marketplace was becoming an absolute reality with all of our members beginning to fly and some of our members passing incredible milestones,” says Joe Leader, ATXA president. “I think you can mark in the history books that 2007 was the year that the next generation air taxi promise was seen by everyone to begin to become reality.”

ATXA, Leader says, is determined to bring that reality to fruition quickly.

“ATXA is focused on leading the revolution in direct, on-demand air travel at phenomenally reduced prices,” Leader continues. “Our mission is to stimulate consumer demand and other best business practices that speed the adoption of the air taxi model, or the next generation air taxi model, in a manner that benefits both the industry and our world.”

ATXA is taking it one state at a time, starting with Virginia. A core initiative is ConnectIT, an industry-neutral common portal for air taxi operators and airports to book reservations in real time. Leader says ATXA will roll the initiative out to other states throughout 2008. Other membership benefits include access to online news and discussion forums and industry discounts. And, ATXA held its first International Air Taxi Conference in late January.

“We’ve created an environment where our operators and their supporting organizations are all reaching out and working together for the birth of a new type of industry,” Leader says.

ATXA has 15 principle founding members, and another 15 founding members for a recently announced ATXA Europe.

Leader says he expects members to include air taxi operators as well as “supporting infrastructure organizations” like airports, FBOs, and service and financial providers.

“We’ve really been embraced by next generation companies that have very assertive business models that do what air taxis really need to do for mass market acceptance,” Leader says. “Which is to bring the price point down so that it’s not simply the business elite flying, it’s really more accessible to companies that value their employees’ time.”

He says that alerting people of expanded flight options by way of air taxis is a primary mission for ATXA. “The demand is there,” Leader says. “What isn’t there is the realization that this is suddenly a phenomenally viable option for so many people.”

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