The Need For Standards

The Need For Standards By Bobbi Thompson, Executive Vice President, Airport Business Solutions September 2002 The FAA’s latest A.C., and why minimums can make a difference About the Author Bobbi Thompson serves as executive...


The recently released change does not make many alterations to the circular issued in May of 2000; however, both documents encourage airport sponsors to prepare tailored minimum standards. Refer to the associated table highlights for specific changes.
Many airports struggle with the decision on whether or not they need to spend staff time or select a consultant to prepare a set of standards for their airport(s). While that decision is dependent upon time constraints, staff ability, and finances available, the decision to develop standards should not be ignored. There are multiple reasons for establishing threshold requirements for all commercial aeronautical providers. Here are just a few:
• Ensure that the Airport Sponsor is in compliance with contractual Federal grant obligations.
• Compliance by the Sponsor with Advisory Circular 150/5190-5 and Change 1, of which the portion on exclusive rights is mandatory.
• Minimum standards establish the threshold goal for services and quality of services, thereby providing a specified level and quality of services to the public.
• Minimum standards protect aviation business enterprises from unfair competition. Tenants who have expended capital funds in developing their businesses are assured that competition will be required to make similar investments.
• Minimum standards provide for equal and fair treatment and prevent unjust discriminatory treatment to prospective and existing tenants.
• Prospective commercial tenants have available clearly stated requirements, which are uniformly enforced to all similar commercial aeronautical enterprises — a level playing field.
• Minimum standards protect the public by requiring that each provider of aeronautical services is qualified and certificated to provide the stated service and that each commercial operator is insured.
• AC 159/5190-5 introduces the new term for commercial aeronautical operators, providing a single service to the public: Specialty Aviation Service Operators (SASO). Each set of standards should define how SASOs can operate on your airports. This helps to ensure that even a single service company has met certain minimum requirements.

Association efforts
Airport leases for commercial operators should contain the requirement to comply with the airports minimum standards, and as part of the lease the standards become mandatory and enforceable.
The American Association of Airport Executives and the National Air Transportation Association are in the final process of updating the guidance document originally created in the mid-80s entitled, "Minimum Standards for Aeronautical Service Providers and Airport Operating Rules and Regulations."
The finished document should be ready in the fall of 2002; however this is a guidance document — not a fill-in-the-blank minimum standard. This guidance document can be especially helpful to low activity general aviation facilities. More complex airports with multiple commercial operators need to have a more detailed process in order to create standards that are functional, implemental, and logical to their commercial aeronautical operators.

Creating a standard
The process of creating such a document should include some involvement by industry professionals familiar with successful procedures in development and implementation of standards at airports similar to yours, tenant workshops, and a well-defined set of project tasks and a timeline to ensure that you will achieve the stated goals. Within your proposed project schedule, allow time for the FAA to review the proposed document.
In the preparation of a minimum standards document, do not forget to include scheduled reviews and updates. Having a set time frame to review the standards will prevent the appearance of changing your threshold requirements to help or prevent a new commercial business from establishing a presence on the airport.
Make sure requirements are specific. Address each type of commercial service being offered — and ones that may be offered at a future time — and be sure to include minimum lease sizes, personnel qualifications, certifications as appropriate, insurance amounts, minimum equipment requirements, hours of operation, etc. Avoid using vague terminology that makes enforcement a judgment call.

Words of caution
An area to absolutely avoid is the creation of minimum standards to either prevent the entry of a new commercial operator by having excessively high threshold requirements, or lowering the standards for the benefit of a new entrant to the airport after current commercial tenants have expended money and time to comply with a previous standard. Both mistakes may cause you to be a recipient of a Part 16 filing, which can suspend your ability to receive funding.
Another mistake that airports make is in trying to make Minimum Standards and Rules and Regulations a single document. While there is certainly an opportunity to work on both documents at the same time, they are very different management tools.
Minimum standards set the threshold requirement for commercial aeronautical service providers, whether they offer a single service or they are a full-service FBO. Rules and regulations apply to everyone that uses the airport and establish the acceptable conduct while they are on your facility. Both documents protect the public and the airport sponsor.
Since it is wise to involve tenants and/or a representative group of tenants in the development process for both documents, there are certain time and cost savings for working on both documents at the same time, but do not lose focus of the separate distinctions each document demands.

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