Inside the Fence

Feb. 8, 2004
Notes from Savannah and other observations ... The annual NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers conference was held in early January in Savannah. Attendees are primarily those folks involved with dispatching corporate aircraft and Part 135s around the country. In essence, these are the folks who frequently determine where bizjets will get their services on the road. Exhibitors are primarily FBOs and a few airports. It's been said here before and should be said again: If business aviation is a marketing target, there are no other venues quite like Schedulers & Dispatchers to reach decisionmakers on where these aircraft are serviced.

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Feedback from FBOs at Savannah is actually quite positive. No, the industry has not reached its robust level of the late 1990s, but signs are it is improving. In fact, several operators said they just had their best year ever.

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The Transportation Security Administration recently released its recommendations for general aviation security, which probably resulted in a collective sigh of relief from the industry segment. Basically, it's a best practices, common sense guide.

Yet, there are legitimate concerns about the potential use of GA aircraft by terrorists. Consider the recent report that Saudi security forces seized light aircraft that were packed with explosives. The apparent goal was to have suicide pilots blow up a Western airliner on a runway.

This is why the U.S. Secret Service is nervous about GA aircraft.

But the recommendation here is not to seek more security for GA. Rather, it's that those in general aviation take the best practices approach seriously, and recognize that such aircraft could be used by terrorists.

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For many years, the Combs-Gates chain of FBOs was considered the standard by which all others were judged. The man behind that success was Harry Combs, who not only inspired his workforce but had the talent of hiring very good people.

Look around the industry today and you will find those people sprinkled throughout, succeeding. And when they talk of Harry their words speak only positives.
In December, Harry died at age 90. One suspects he'll continue to inspire in the afterworld.

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A final thought to industry associations: Consider holding one meeting each year, such as committee get-togethers, at universities that have aviation programs. Seems like there's a synergy there that could benefit all.

Thanks for reading.