TORONTO — Steve Grossman, named the 2005-06 chairman of the Airports Council International-North America at the group’s annual meeting here in September, has his master’s degree in urban planning from Michigan State University. After starting his career as an airport consultant, he worked his way up the administrative/financial ladder at San Jose International, prior to becoming director of aviation for the Port of Oakland in 1992. After being named ACI-NA chair, he sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss issues facing airports and the system. Following are edited excerpts ...
Oakland International is expected to move some 14.5 million passengers through its two terminals this year, according to Grossman. When he arrived at OAK, it was 6 million. Since that time, Grossman has helped direct what has become a major cargo gateway to the Pacific and a low-fare alternative airport to San Francisco International across the bay. It is the eleventh busiest cargo airport, with a FedEx hub and a major presence by UPS and Airborne.
AIRPORT BUSINESS: As you head into the position of ACI-NA chair, what is your overall perspective? What do you see?
Grossman: I see the planets coming into alignment for us to achieve a number of goals that ACI has set. We have a reauthorization coming up and we know that the industry is in trouble in funding the federal programs. There are a number of issues that seem to be coming together where FAA and Congress in particular ought to be receptive to solutions that this organization can put forward to make the situation better for everybody.
We want to put forward recommendations that will save the federal government money and allow the FAA to put its resources into its top priorities, which need to be the air traffic control system, FAA operations, and the support of small airports that absolutely have to have federal assistance in getting their projects done. Most larger airports with significant air carrier service have a variety of mechanisms in which we can support our programs if we have the economic flexibility to do it. We’re looking at how to reduce some of the burdensome regulations that we face, free up some money to be re-allocated to other users of the system, and give our airports the flexibility to run their businesses, within some parameters.
We very much value the role the federal government plays from the standpoint of protecting airport assets. So the revenue diversion regulations, the non-discrimination regulations — those are all very good. But there’s a whole raft of other cumbersome regulations that not only cost us money and tie our hands in what we can do, but also require resources from the federal government to oversee that don’t need to be there.
AB: And what do you see as the more onerous financial regs?
Grossman: The PFC [passenger facility charge] process is rather onerous. Why should the FAA go through the process of reviewing these applications, deciding which projects are appropriate, when utter definition of project eligibility could be developed — put the FAA more into a role of auditing us versus regulating us. The PFC revenue stream could almost be a permanent revenue stream and, for example, we could each year send an audit to FAA telling them what we spent our money on. They could then review it.
With environmental, where states have regulations that are as rigorous or more rigorous than the federal regulations, why not have the certification from the airport that shows we’ve complied with our state regulations and have that accepted as compliance with federal regulations?
Streamline the business, because in the end cost to us translates into cost to the airlines. Airport costs, while not a determining factor in the airline business model, are still an important cost. To the extent we can reduce our costs, that translates into dollars.
AB: Airports seem to be in agreement with FAA that as we go through a new reauthorization process, the system that is in place needs rethinking. Do you agree?
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