By John F. Infanger
NBAA's incoming president discusses business aviation, key issues
WEST CHICAGO, IL — In June, Shelley A. Longmuir, a former Washington lobbyist for United Airlines who has served several federal agencies, took over as president of the National Business Aviation Association, succeeding the retiring Jack Olcott. Since that time, she has been meeting some of the 7,300 member companies at NBAA Reachbac sessions around the U.S. She visited DuPage Airport here in August, at which time she sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss the business of aviation and issues facing it. Here's an edited transcript.
Longmuir, who will be moving back to D.C. from Chicago , led a team of more than 50 attorneys, economists, and lobbyists for United, according to NBAA. An attorney, she has held positions at the Departments of Justice, Transportation, and Housing & Urban Development. At DOT, Longmuir headed up a Presidential Task Force on Hurricane Andrew.
AIRPORT BUSINESS: What are your reasons for seeking this position, and what's on your agenda as you look ahead?
Longmuir: Frankly, it's hard to resist coming to a sector that's profitable, growing, and affiliated with aviation, a great personal passion. When I left United I did it with a lot of internal conflict because I love the field, the people, the issues. I get to learn about a whole new sector for me, the business aviation community.
AB: In terms of issues?
Longmuir: Always, safety is a priority. Business aviation has an unparalleled record. It will continue to be a priority.
And security. There's never been a greater need for business aviation.
And, of course, access, wherever it's threatened. NBAA recognizes the cost to our membership and the cost that it can potentially wreak on efficiency and productivity. That's the name of the game. This is a business tool to help business leaders deliver a bottom line to shareholder value. Anything that compromises that ability to meet those challenges is something that we need to very aggressively pursue.
AB: Is the current debate about weight-based runway restrictions something you see as an access issue?
Longmuir: Absolutely. It is an attempt to restrict access to the airspace. Whether it's nighttime restrictions, a Stage 2 categorization — I'm thinking of Naples , now — or whether it's weight-based, there are things that do not necessarily comply with FAA policy or regulation.
AB: And I would assume you are in support of FAA's efforts on weight-based restrictions.
Longmuir: Yes. NBAA, much to its credit, has led the expression of concern with respect to both Naples and the weight-based restrictions. FAA has been very proactive and assertive on those policies. NBAA, in turn, has followed their lead in opposing access restrictions.
AB: Talking about access and security neatly leads to the question of DCA and access to it.
Longmuir: DCA ( Washington Reagan National Airport ) is a very complex issue. NBAA has been working with the federal government, in particular TSA, about access to DCA. There are a lot of new policy players at the table: FBI, Customs, Secret Service, DHS, TSA, DOT, INS, DOJ; it is an alphabet soup.
But we feel that we have a collaborative working style with the majority of these agencies, certainly TSA. An example is the TSAACs program [TSA Access Certificate], in which NBAA has been a leader in supporting the TSA's architecture of this program. Right now we have three airports — Morristown , Teterboro, and White Plains — coming on line. There is cautious optimism that we will have some developments at the end of the year; it will be spreading to other airports.
AB: Interestingly, access to DCA has always been an issue, prior to 9/11, between business aviation and the airlines because of slots. Do you have anything to share from the airline's perspective?
Longmuir: They covet those slots. This is all about an operational numbers game. I think, regarding business aviation, I can offer insight into the tactics of their perspective on this. I think I can help convey to various policy members in government what NBAA is doing to be proactive.
We're all for a safe and secure homeland, but we want to make certain that the economic contribution that business aviation makes to the greater region is recognized and quantified. And also have concrete recognition of what is any perceived threat or risk and making certain that it is actual and not hypothetical or creatively portrayed.
AB: The initial skuttlebutt is that NBAA hired you because you had exposure to aviation and knew your way around Washington . What's right and wrong with that synopsis?
Longmuir: I think it's broader than that. I'm blessed with having been in Washington eleven years and having worked in the prior Bush Administration and having been exposed to aviation for over a decade. I also got my spurs in managing very large federal departments, certainly when I worked for Jack Kemp at HUD, and doing crisis management for Andy Card when he was the DOT Secretary. I have a proven style of collaborative management, of being creative, capable in a crisis, and trying to think outside the box.
AB: As you meet your members, what are they talking to you about?
Longmuir: A lot of concerns are focused on access; will current economics affect the ability of airports to keep operating at the level the users need; making sure infrastructure continues to meet the need of demand. Also, trying to raise the profile of business aviation and making sure that it has a seat at the policymakers' gatherings.