The NBAA Charge: Incoming President Ed Bolen talks about priorities, association's health

Oct. 8, 2004

Inside the Industry

The NBAA Charge

Incoming President Ed Bolen talks about priorities, association’s health

By John Infanger

October 2004

AIRPORT BUSINESS recently spoke with the new president of the NationalBusiness Aviation Association (NBAA), Ed Bolen, on issues facing corporateaviation, the health of the association, and what he brings to theNBAA table as a long-time lobbyist and former CEO of the General AviationManufacturers Association (GAMA). Following are edited excerpts of that interview.

Ed Bolen

Bolen joined GAMA in 1995 as general counsel and became CEO in 1996. He has served on national commissions on the future of the aerospace industry, on FAA’s Management Advisory Council, and as an advisor to NASA, among other positions. His previous experience includes serving as the majority counsel to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and being the legislative director for U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS). He has a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and is a recreational pilot.

On what he brings to NBAA ...

“I bring a knowledge of the legislative process and the regulatory process. Our surveys of our members suggest that government representation is a priority for them. It’s a reason they belong to NBAA; it’s what they want from NBAA. And I have some knowledge on how to effectively work in the government environment. I also bring to the job a passion for general aviation, as someone who has worked in the field for over a decade as a pilot; I love this stuff. So, to have the opportunity to advocate for something you’re passionate about is a pretty wonderful opportunity.”

On the challenges coming into the position ...

“General aviation has a number of challenges but they all really get back to the issue of access. The future of business aviation looks bright in the U.S. and internationally; but that assumes that we are going to be able to fly business aircraft where we want to and when we want to, and to do that we’re going to have to have access to airports and airspace. Living in Washington, D.C., where we are precluded from flights into DCA [Washington Reagan National], it’s pretty clear that access to the airports and airspace is not something we can take for granted.

“There are capacity and congestion issues; there are security issues; there are environmental issues.”

On the decision to reinstitute slot controls at Chicago O’Hare ...

“O’Hare, like LaGuardia, was one of the slot-controlled airports prior to 2000; the slots came off and congestion issues at those airports began to have a ripple effect across the country. The response in both cases was to go back to some type of slot system. It’s one that really ought to serve as a wakeup call because this is a situation where we’re looking at a single airport in isolation. We’re not looking at a regional approach to the demand situation at a Chicago O’Hare. We’ve got a solution that is fairly unsophisticated.

“I would hope that this is a wakeup call to look at the airport infrastructure regionally and nationally; invest in our reliever airports; do airspace redesign; move some technologies; make it easier to build runways. When you simply tap demand you’re also tapping the benefits that flow from the free movement of goods and people.

“We need to take a more regional or national approach. We’re an airport system; a lot of people don’t look at it that way. They understand that our highways are a system, but airports are viewed as individual local airports.

“At some point we are artificially restricting ourselves when we are artificially capping capacity. That’s what we’ve gotten in Chicago.”

On the financial and management condition of NBAA, following the recent departure of short-term president Shelley Longmuir …

“NBAA is a sound association; it has a very proud heritage and tremendous potential. It’s not a situation where I’m walking into an association that’s broke and we need to fix it. It has been without a little staff leadership for a period of time and we’re going to try to provide that.

“I knew Shelley before she came to NBAA. She is a good, fine professional person and I think NBAA is a good association but sometimes there just isn’t a chemistry there.

On the FAR Part 135 working group, which he chairs and which is looking at the rewrite of Parts 135, 91, and 125 …

“We’re going to try to wrap that rulemaking committee up; we’ve got a meeting in November and we’ll probably have a wrap-up in the spring. That whole process is coming to an end.

“The motivation for the 135 rewrite was probably a recognition that technology was changing and operations are changing and FAA wants to make sure the regulations remain relevant. I think that’s a worthwhile endeavor.

“We are trying to update and modernize those regulations. I think that is really important. Regulations can impact behavior and can stifle innovation. They can act as a barrier to safety, ironically enough. We’re trying to make sure that 135 is relevant today.

“When you get into those types of things the gut reaction is we want to fix it forever — let’s make it perfect so we never have to go through one of these rewrites again. The reality is the world always changes in ways you never expect. This is the first time that 135 has been really looked at completely since 1978, and I think it’s time.”