The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) concluded its popular Air Charter Summit this week. The Air Charter Summit is the Part 135 on-demand air charter industry's most popular event with its wide array of business, regulatory and legislative topics on issues affecting the aviation community at-large. This year's summit included a robust agenda with issues that touched on all facets of the Part 135 and fractional program management communities, including charter brokering, Transportation Security Administration updates, audit standards, combating drug trafficking, frequently issued Part 135 violations and the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program. Popular sessions featured advice on how to protect your business against clawbacks in bankruptcy proceedings and a forum with the FAA Part 135 Branch.
Other Summit Highlights:
• Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Special Agent Charge Patrick Arata opened the summit with an overview of DEA and recent activities. Arata discussed possible indicators of drug trafficking, including modified tail numbers, blocked-out windows and recent paint jobs, as well as sound methods for operators to follow such as checking the no fly list, employing best practices for using brokers, being suspicious of one-way flights and being cautious of cash payments.
• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Director of Flight Standards Service John Allen's FAA regulatory report included an update on flight, duty and rest regulations. Allen said that the FAA is working through public comments on the Part 121 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in order to publish a final rule by the July 31 deadline. He also said that it is likely that future rulemaking efforts will propose extending the Part 121 rule to Part 135. NATA President James K. Coyne emphasized the inconsistency in flight, duty and rest time for pilots vs. air traffic controllers. He said that Part 121 is vastly different from Part 135 and thus on-demand air charter flights should be regulated differently. Allen mentioned that the pilot certificate and qualifications aviation rulemaking committee completed its work in November and that there will be issues of interest to the Part 135 industry on which they strongly urge NATA members to comment.
• In the Most Frequently Issued FAA Part 135 Violations session, Joseph Conte of the FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel-Enforcement and Paul Lange of The Law Offices of Paul A. Lange outlined common mistakes made by operators, including improper drug and alcohol testing procedures, making excuses that make the enforcement issues worse, poor recordkeeping and reading safety rules out of context. They also gave advice on how to avoid problems such as paying close attention to detail, implementing proper drug and alcohol testing procedures, instituting voluntary disclosure reporting programs, auditing/testing systems and always questioning if there is anything else that the operator can do to ensure compliance.
• The forum with the FAA Part 135 Operations Branch featured a lively question and answer period regarding topics such as pilot training/checking credits, the use of technology such as iPads, and flight, duty and rest rulemaking. Many questions were raised regarding pilot training credit and what qualifies a pilot as trained on an operator's specific program. (Watch for an article addressing this topic in an upcoming issue of the Aviation Business Journal.)
• The 2011 Air Charter Summit also helped NATA and McFarren Aviation Consulting highlight their support of the Veteran's Airlift Command (VAC). NATA and McFarren Aviation Consulting pledged $10 each per attendee with a combined minimum of $5,000 in addition to money and other contributions by NATA members and summit attendees. The VAC is a charitable organization that provides free air transportation to wounded warriors, veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes. Thousands of dollars were raised through this effort, but much more can be done to help support wounded warriors. Visit www.nata.aero/acs to find out how you can contribute funds, donate unused card member or fractional share flight hours or give a corporate gift of flight hours.
• Key players within the audit community assembled to discuss the continuing confusion with the various audits and its impact on Part 135 on-demand air charter operators. During the session, operators continued to express clear concern with the large number of audits that still exist and the importance of coalescing around one audit standard.
• Transportation Security Administration Deputy Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management Douglas Hofsass provided a detailed overview of the latest security developments affecting the Part 135 community, including the supplemental Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) rulemaking, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) and airport badging. Hofsass indicated that the supplemental LASP rule has moved out of the TSA and is now being reviewed by the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security.
• U.S. Department of Transportation Principal Deputy Assistant General Counsel, Office of Aviation Enforcement & Proceedings, Dayton Lehman and Kent Jackson of Jackson & Wade, LLC highlighted the latest activity on charter brokering oversight, some recent enforcement actions and pending rulemaking related to brokering. NATA's Coyne said, "The solid turnout at this year's Air Charter Summit illustrates an engaged and active Part 135 community. There is no shortage of issues facing Part 135 and NATA's Air Charter Summit is the premier event to increase awareness of the existence of these issues and where they stand, provide a forum for discussion and present resources to address questions and challenges."
"I am especially pleased that a portion of the proceeds of this year's summit will help support the work of the Veteran's Airlift Command. I encourage everyone to visit www.nata.aero/acs to find out how they can continue to contribute to this noble and worthy cause," concluded Coyne.