Are You Being Served?

May 1, 2003

Affectionately known as 'Alphabet Groups', aviation associations offer much in the way of information and a strength in numbers to a variety of aviation businesses, writes Michelle Garetson.

May 2003

As this year marks the 100th anniversary of powered flight, it should not be surprising that a few of the aviation associations are nearly as old as the Wright Flyer and Richard Pearse's monoplane.

Just before World War I, people began to think in terms of how aviation was going to play out during the war as well as after. In 1919, three associations that still exist today came on the scene either directly or indirectly as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that year - Aerospace Industries Association, International Air Transport Association (IATA), and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) was formed in 1936 when a group of 14 airlines met in Chicago. Still strong today, the ATA was instrumental in initially working with government on aviation issues, as well as in the creation of the Civil Aeronautics Board and the air traffic control system.

Another post-war association to form was the Aviation Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ADMA), which helped to link the product manufacturer to the supply chain, foster long-term business relationships, and act as a representative for the common interests of the market.

Evolving strategies
Sometimes, associations have evolved to adapt to industry changes. Such is the case of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA). The first NATA was officially formed with 83 charter member companies as the National Aviation Training Association in 1940 to help save the Civilian Pilot Training Program from being banned by the government during wartime. In 1944, post-war life warranted NATA changing its name to the National Aviation Trades Association to help facilitate the growth of aviation businesses such as flight schools

and also represented these businesses in Washington as government regulations were increasing in number. It ultimately came to be today's National Air Transportation Association in 1974.

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) started out in 1952 as joint study group consisting of the presidents of Air France, KLM, Sabena, and Swissair. In 1954, this group became the Air Research Bureau, but soon changed its name to the European Airlines Research Bureau, which it remained until 1973, when the name was changed to the Association of European Airlines.

Niche Markets
The growth of aviation in the 1970s spawned some of the first niche type associations. 1971 brought the International Air Carrier Association (IACA), which represents airline companies whose customers are primarily, leisure travellers. Also that year, the International Air Shipping Association was formed to help address the challenges brought on by a marked increase globally in air shipping. In 1975, the Regional Airline Association (RAA) carved out its place of the airline market to serve the growing number of regional carriers.

The 21st century has already seen much in the way of fledgling foundations, especially in the regional market. Regional Aviation Partners (RAP), which was formed in April 2001 as a grassroots advocacy organization to stop the erosion of rural and small community air service to rural America. The Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) was formed in August 2002 as a not-for-profit trade association and already has 26 member airlines that deliver small packages, mail, critical pharmaceuticals, and Federal Reserve funds in a time-sensitive manner across rural America. Also founded in 2002, is the Regional Air Service Preservation (RASP). RASP's goal is to restore 19-seat operations to its previous regulatory standard in lieu of flight rules that have significantly decreased 19-seat turboprop service, leaving many communities in rural America without commercial air service. RASP intends to work with local communities to lobby for change in the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Ground Support Associations
Also new within the last year are those associations specific to ground support. Handlers and ground support equipment are now being represented by the International Aviation Handlers' Association (IAHA) and the International Aviation Ground Support Association (IAGSA).

While IAHA realizes that various regional organizations represent ground handling companies, they feel it necessary to launch a global organization to represent the ground handling industry worldwide. Simply put, airlines operate worldwide and the issues affecting the ground handling industry are by result, international. Belgian-based IAHA's mission is to be recognized and consulted as the representative and professional industry forum and the voice of independent ground handling companies worldwide.

IAGSA is being formed to address those issues specific to ground support equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Still in the early stages of initiation, both IAHA and IAGSA are keen to provide a forum for their respective members in regards to tracking, influencing, and setting standards and tackling issues such as insurance and safety. Both groups also offer a collective industry voice for members who alone, could not accomplish.

Success by Association
How do you know if your business should join up with an aviation association? One answer might be because of the types of member benefits that can range from trade shows, publications, town hall meetings and conferences, standards/benchmarking, collective buys, representation in industry and government meetings, legal advice, consultancy, and training. Many associations have websites, and some have trade shows or conferences affiliated with the organization where you can check those features that best suit the goals that your business is trying to achieve or those concerns that you may not be able to address on your own. (A listing of the associations mentioned in this article and others can be found at the end of this article).

Information Station
Because the main thrust of any association is to collect information and share it with its members, the alphabet groups provide a wealth of industry research to business owners. Many, if not all, associations offer print and electronic newsletters and a few even are jumping into the publishing business by launching quarterly publications. The Regional Airline Association will unveil its Approach magazine at its May show, and NATA will have a July debut for its Aviation Business Journal.

The Air Transport Association's recent report, Airlines In Crisis: The Perfect Economic Storm, was released prior to the war in Iraq, but used the pending conflict in a contrast/comparison to what happened to the airline industry in the first Gulf War and gave its predictions based on ATA's research as to how best move forward.

Association of European Airlines has launched a regular Consumer Report, giving punctuality and baggage-delivery details for member airlines. AEA's new report allows a comparison between airlines over their entire networks.

All things to all people?
The number of aviation associations is growing as more niche branches of the industry are wanting representation, that may be lacking in the larger, more established associations.

A caution or two to those beginning new ventures would be to not reinvent the wheel. And, that it's good to maintain a friendly relationship with the larger associations as they usually have more resources for help. Larger associations, listen too, that these new, nimbler associations are serving an area found wanting in your organization and you might be able to learn from this as well. All in all, there is one commonality in all of these alphabet groups and that is to follow to the letter, the course to a more efficient and safer aviation industry.

Aviation Associations

Aerospace Industries Association
Tel: +202-371-8400;

Air Transport Association (ATA) of America
Tel: +202-626-4000;

Association of European Airlines
Tel: +32 (0)2 639 89 89;

Aviation Distributors & Manufacturers Association Intl. (ADMA)
Tel: +215-564-3484;

Aviation Suppliers Association
Tel: +202-347-6899;

International Air Carrier Association (IACA)
Tel: +32 (0)2-546-10-60;

International Air Shipping Association
Tel: +44 (0) 1753 732122;

International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Tel: +514-874-9632;

International Aviation Ground Support Association (IAGSA)
Tel: +703-533-0251;

International Aviation Handling Association
Tel: +32-2-723-03-82;

International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO)
Tel.: +514 954 8219;

National Air Transportation Association (NATA)
Tel: +703-845-9000;

Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA)
Tel: +508-778-7788;

Regional Air Service Preservation (RASP)
Contact: Gary Risley Email: [email protected]

Regional Airline Association
Tel: +202-367-1170;

Regional Aviation Partners
Tel: +602-685-4112;