Inside the Fence

Thoughts from the editorial road in the month of January ...

The NBAA Schedulers & Dis-patchers Conference, held in San Antonio, continues to shine as a leading venue for FBOs, charter companies, and airports to market to business aviation. Everyone agrees that it is the intimacy of the event that is largely responsible for its success. This year saw 2,200 attendees and 322 exhibits — both records. A few observations ...

  • It would seem that corporates have accepted the fact that more stringent security is here to stay, and appear to be making the necessary moves to protect their investments.

  • If corporates are a target market, visit for information on next year’s event.

  • Scuttlebutt says NBAA is considering loosening its limits on booth spaces, to date restricted to table top 10x10-foot displays. The prevailing mood is that this would be a mistake.

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Incoming NATA chair Bill Koch (pages 16-17), when asked if he agrees that FAA/government will never be able to transform the U.S. air traffic control system, if for no other reason than it cannot keep up with the technology: “The technology is improving so dramatically in the private sector ... and FAA is talking about redesigning a new air traffic system on a 20-year plan. We need airport and ATC systems that can keep up with technology and demand.”

While he doesn’t come straight out and call for a privatized ATC, it may be time for the U.S. aviation industry to begin a serious dialog on the topic. FAA has demonstrated it cannot keep up.

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Which leads to the discussion on future U.S. aviation system funding, a debate heating up in D.C. circles. Reauthorization is officially up in FY08, which in essence is 18 months away.

The Bush Administration is already calling for dramatic cuts in FAA and AIP funding in an effort to put a stranglehold on finances. FAA has for some time been calling for a new user fee system to fill the coffers of the Aviation Trust Fund. Industry, for the most part, wants the status quo.

As long as ATC and its high labor costs remain under the auspices of FAA, it’s difficult to envision how we can get a true handle on FAA costs or on modernizing the system. This, it seems, should be the starting point of the discussion.

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Finally ... familiarity breeds typos. Apologies to Don Campion, whose Banyan Air Service is located at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, not Orlando — misidentified in February.

Thanks for reading.