Inside the Fence

Aug. 4, 2006
In this our annual ‘Canadian Issue,’ we find that, in the land that made hockey famous, things are good, economically.

Interesting times, for Canada, for the U.S. ... In this our annual ‘Canadian Issue,’ we find that, in the land that made hockey famous, things are good, economically. It’s led to a growth trend at the major airports. Winnipeg is expanding (page 12), Calgary exploding (page 24), and Vancouver keeps plowing new turf (page 8).

Small commercial service airports remain challenged; the feds offer a pool of funds of some $35 million a year. Says Calgary’s Garth Atkinson, “The fund is not near big enough.” Add to that, he says, the regulatory creep faced by all airports, and the challenge grows.

Now comes the Canada Airports Act, which is billed as the first real legislation regulating airports, particularly the large ones that pay all that rent back to Ottawa each year. But then, that’s another (ongoing) issue.

Airports were asking for reform; they don’t object to guiding regulatory principles. At the outset, it looks as though what they got was more paperwork.

* * *

In Washington, NATA is expressing concern that Small Community Air Service Development Grants are being used by airports to compete with existing businesses on the field. Concurrently, AAAE announced it is going ahead with the creation of the Aviation Ground Service Association (AGSA), as indicated in a previous column. (See articles, pages 22-23.)

For AAAE, the published goal is to offer guidelines, training, and support for airports that have a reason for providing airline services. NATA gets concerned about the reason.

Eric Byer, vice president for NATA, says he appreciates the pressures airports are undergoing today in light of airline pressures and a community’s desire for air service. He would just prefer a private company do it, assuming it’s a viable enterprise.

Meanwhile, at ACI-NA, Steve Van Beek (page 10) is coordinating an information attack on FAA, trade groups, and the industry on its call for PFC reform. Central to ACI-NA’s proposal is that such reform would actually benefit small airports — with more stability than the current formula offers, he says.

That said, Van Beek’s primary message is, “We start with the assumption that the first goal is to make the trust fund stable and reliable. It seems some other folks are starting with the taxes. I think what we first should do is ask, Do the taxes provide enough to meet the obligations?”

The real debate begins after the November elections. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.