In Support of Air Taxi Operators

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

Leader does see awareness improving, citing the 20 percent of SATSAir passengers using the service for leisure travel. “That’s a very important shift because as people realize that they can take a quick family trip within a few hundred miles at a very reasonable price, it changes the dynamics of how people can travel.

“That’s the greatest hurdle, from most customers’ perspective. This is something that they never thought they could afford that suddenly they very easily can.”

Leader says another hurdle is the environmental concern. “One of the things that people don’t realize on a per passenger basis that with the Cirrus SR22 or Eclipse 500 VLJ, it’s about as much emissions per person as your typical SUV. So it has a minimal environmental footprint.”

He says industry reception to date has been welcoming. “We’ve really been warmly received by other associations because we’re not a lobbying association,” Leader says. “We’re a membership and community-based association. So since we’re not a lobbying association, I think that’s caused the friendly embrace of our efforts. We’ve enjoyed working with both NBAA and NATA on common objectives.”

Representing the VLJs
The Next Generation Air Mobility Coalition may have a more difficult road ahead in gaining industry acceptance.

“We’re a generalized advocacy and educational organization,” explains Tom Blank, executive director of NGAMC and vice chairman of public policy company Wexler and Walker. “But certainly lobbying is one of the activities that we will be engaged in.”

NGAMC’s first order of business is focused on adoption of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Blank says that the sooner NextGen is implemented the better for NGAMC members.

“These aircraft are already equipped with the collision avoidance systems and other technologies that will allow them to operate more efficiently inside the system,” Blank says. “So what you’ve seen here is that a lot of the traditional aviation groups are supportive of NextGen, but they’re more worried about the costs and how they’re going to be divided up than the NGAMC members.

“What the NGAMC members need to have accomplished is establish and improve industry viability as soon as possible, and hook that industry viability to an expanded air traffic control capability.”

To help adopt NextGen, NGAMC is on an Early Adopters Council with the JDPO and hopes to primarily lead by example. “We want to see as many aircraft as possible that are capable of using [NextGen] get out there into the system,” Blank says. “Out of all of that we think that FAA and the Congress and the aviation community will begin to see the promise of NextGen delivered. Hopefully, in that atmosphere, we’ll see a broader consensus that we really must come together to get NextGen.”

Blank says the Early Adopters Council will also collect information on the air taxi industry’s needs and impact on the system.

NGAMC has other priorities as well. “We have some degree of concern about diminishing GA infrastructure,” Blank says. To prevent it, Blank says NGAMC hopes to get in front of local governments making decisions about the future of an airport, and present the merits of air taxis economically.

Blank says NGAMC’s goals are “complementary” to the efforts of other industry organizations. Membership is primarily made up of air taxis, manufacturers, and suppliers, but Blank says he hopes some communities will consider joining.

ASCF: An Eye on Safety
Charlie Priester, chairman of Air Charter Safety Foundation and chair of Priester Aviation, Wheeling, IL, says it was clear that now is the time to begin ACSF. He equates it to the founding of the FlightSafety Foundation, formed when airlines recognized that projected growth could lead to unacceptable accident rates in the future without positive action to prevent it.

“If we stand back and take the projected growth for charter in the next year, we’re almost in an identical situation as the airlines were back in the late ‘50s,” Priester says. ACSF will collect charter activity data beyond FAA statistics — training, auditing, safety management programs and the safety culture.

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