IMPROVING COMMUNITY RELATIONS
Without community support, many general aviation airports face dismal futures. Recognizing this, NATA released a Community Relations tool kit at the convention. As part of its American Aviation Access Initiative, the initial tool kit is a handbook developed to enhance airport relations with neighbors and community leaders.
The introduction sums up the need for and purpose of the tool kit: "Of greatest concern are isolated groups of vocal airport opponents who fail to recognize the importance of universal access to the air transportation system."
The handbook is meant as a "how-to" manual for developing and improving community relations.
During a session on community relations, speaker Peter Burgher, president of Marelco Power Systems, stressed including community leaders not ordinarily associated with the airport on an airport support group. Burgher suggests the head of the hospital might highlight the role of the airport with organ transplants; the sheriff might mention the aid in prisoner transport; other participants may include the head of a CPA firm, a major banker, a law firm partner, and representatives of other major employers. With support from leaders in the economic community, voters and politicians are more likely to follow suit.
The NATA Community Relations tool kit is available for $30 from NATA. To obtain a copy, call (800) 808-NATA.
POSITIVE ECONOMIC NEWS
Richard Aboulafia, director of aviation studies for The Teal Group, projects that aviation will continue to be strong economically. The sales of business jets quadrupled (dollar value of deliveries) from 1995-2000. Though they have likely leveled off, Aboulafia expects $90 billion in additional business jet deliveries for 2001-2010.
Used planes and pricing, fractional ownerships, airline reactions, and the firmness of orders booked are concerns of economic analysts, but overall the next ten years in aviation are expected to be strong.
NATA has been receiving a number of calls from members concerned about their insurance. Five years ago, 17 companies insured aviation businesses; today only eight remain.
Bill Welbourn, senior vice president for USAIG, Rick Davis, vice president/LA branch for Associated Aviation Underwriters, and Kyle Sparks, vice president of AIG Aviation Insurance, offer advice on obtaining and maintaining insurance for aviation business owners.
"Underwriters like to have all the information possible, especially what your company is doing right," explains Welbourn. He adds that companies should share all contracts with their underwriter to explore where it may be possible to transfer liability.
Davis recommends developing and supporting a proactive safety program. And in the case of aircraft owners opting to postpone maintenance procedures, Davis advises having a lawyer draw up a waiver form.
Sparks reiterates the importance of sharing all of the details of the business with the underwriter. Plans and manuals should be updated and followed and the insurance company should be aware of them.
All three mention the idea of qualifying customers. If a plane comes in that has not been maintained, don’t hesitate to turn it away. Sometimes it’s better to pass up a small profit to avoid liabilities later on, they say.
Insurance is expected to be more and more difficult to obtain in the coming years, and it will continue to be more expensive.
Airport PR Dos and Don’ts
Suggestions for improving airport community relations brought up in an NATA convention discussion by attendees and speaker Peter Burgher.
• Hold a car rally for Corvette, Ferrari, or other collectors’
• Don’t hold an airshow — makes the airport seem like a thrill ride, says Burgher
• Hold an open house - emphasize the subtle benefits of the airport (organ transplants, etc.)
• Attend commission meetings with supporters; the opposition may tend to exaggerate
• Don’t do it alone; get the airport support group to attend commission meetings and be prepared with economic, noise, and other facts
• Hold a breakfast or barbecue in support of a county commissioner or other candidate; collect campaign fund donations
• Don’t stop fighting for the airport, even when it appears the battle has been won
• Start campaigning for support well before there is talk of closing the airport
• Ask organizations (NATA, NBAA, AOPA, etc.) to help speak with Congressmen
• Try to positively influence big opponents via free lessons, airplane rides, etc.
• Hold a reporter/media day; give everyone a ride and an air tour of the area; hand out AOPA’s Glossary of Terms for Reporters
• Hold a grade school kids’ day
• Find the people the public will listen to and gain their support
• Hold a Teachers’ Day; hand out curriculum on lift/drag, etc.; host a paper airplane contest
• Talk to or join the community or county economic development board
• Get to know the Chamber of Commerce
• Refer to curfews as "voluntary quiet hours"; when they are not followed, explain why to the public
• Look to cargo operators for support
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