NATA, PAMA MEMBERS MEET
Funding, security foremost as industry gears up for convention
by Lindsay M. Hitch
AIRPORT BUSINESS spoke with the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) about issues in preparation for the AS3 show, March 26-28 in Indianapolis. At the forefront of members' concerns: evolving security requirements, economic relief, training initiatives, new maintenance regulations, and community relations.
ONE STEP AHEAD
The general aviation community is still awaiting specific security regulations for its operations. In an effort to provide guidance to FAA on practical security legislation, NATA is working on several initiatives, including the Business Aviation Security Task Force.
"Security continues to remain a question," says David Kennedy, manager of government and industry affairs for NATA. "The entire security apparatus has been, and appropriately [so], built around the scheduled air carriers."
"There's a concern out there about, 'Is this going to trickle down? Is there going to be more legislation that's going to require additional security at parts of the airport that at this point in time don't require security?'" asks David Schober, manager of governmental and technical affairs for PAMA. "As of now there's nothing on the horizon, but that's not to say that something doesn't pop up somewhere along the line."
"The traveling public is crying for security measures, but on the other side of it ... specifically with small airplanes, there really is no way that we've been able to define where security could be effective," says Schober. "The security issue is one of those things that's going to be on for a while."
A report on general aviation security was mandated as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act; DOT conducted the review. Kennedy says that the report essentially says, 'GA covers a broad range of aviation and will be difficult to regulate.' NATA is encouraging its members to be proactive when it comes to security, otherwise FAA and Congress will get involved and the industry probably won't like their answers.
The FBI visited many flight schools shortly after September 11. "I would say without exception I did not get a complaint about that involvement. Everybody really said, 'Yes, let's sit down and look at the records ... What do you guys need?' And they worked really hard to do that," says Kennedy.
"The question I keep getting asked is 'Who's in the airplane?'" relates Kennedy. "How do you control it?"
One component in aviation security is the physical security of the facility and the airport itself. The other, says Kennedy, is having a relationship with the customer. "It can be a positive thing, because it is about customer service, and it's about building on that. And I think there are ways to do it that are not intrusive but at the same time will help answer that question of, 'Who's in the airplane?'"
The Business Aviation Security Task Force's flight school component met in early February in Vero Beach, FL. The group is working on a program to increase security at flight schools. Part of that program will focus on ensuring only the right people have access to aircraft and flight training. Jim Coyne, president of NATA, says the recommendations from the February meeting will be presented at the convention.
"The events in Tampa have really created a lot of questions about what flight schools should or shouldn't do to improve security," says Coyne. "A lot of people are making very critical remarks about flight school security."
NATA was involved in discussions with FAA regarding security enhancements for flight schools prior to their release in early January. The recommendations closely parallel NATA's Business Aviation Security Task Force suggestions, but Kennedy says NATA is happy that each facility is able to select which it will implement.
INSURING THE FUTURE
As both an ongoing issue and a result of September 11, insurance costs and availability continue to be an issue for aviation businesses. "It takes a lot of work on the businesses' part to be very active with their agents, with their underwriters, demonstrating that they aggressively manage the safety aspects of it and try and minimize losses," says Kennedy.
TRAINING: INTEGRATING SAFETY & SECURITY
In December 2001, NATA announced its acquisition of the Aviation Training Institute (ATI) from Aviation Resource Group International (ARGI). The acquistion adds line service training materials to the NATA Safety 1st Program's written and practical tests.
Amy Koranda, manager of education and training for NATA, says that aviation insurance providers are lauding the training program. "They're going to be ... cross-referencing when they do FBO audits, looking to see, 'Have these folks trained and tested?' And they're actually looking for the NATA Safety 1st program."
The next training module under development will cover security. Koranda says the outline for a security video is in the works and that NATA is waiting for FAA regulatory requirements to be determined before proceeding with the project. Once completed, the Safety 1st program will be comprised of ten modules on line safety and security. The video will be distributed to NATA Safety 1st/ATI participants.
The fight for a general aviation relief bill drags on. Eric Byer, manager of legislative affairs for NATA, says that NATA is doing all it can to push an economic relief bill through Congress.
The General Aviation Reparations Act, introduced by Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), was in the hands of the Aviation Subcommittee in December. NATA's Coyne says there is a good chance Mica's bill will be voted on or appended to another vote in the coming months, though nothing is certain.
According to Byer, there is a large contingency of Democrats more concerned with compensation for unemployed airline workers that may get in the way of the Mica bill. There is also another bill from Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) that calls for $400 million for general aviation businesses that NATA is working on pushing through the Senate.
The Mica bill includes grants and loans through the Small Business Administration to cover actual losses related to September 11. The difficulty with that, is quantifying those losses and justifying them when applying for the loans, says Schober. And, he adds, even if the bill does go through, it will be a long time before aviation businesses see any of that relief money.
Compensation has been established for Part 135 carriers, but those operations are being compared to Part 121 carriers when it comes to doling out the funds. NATA has expressed concern to DOT, explaining that the nature of charter operations is entirely different from scheduled airlines.
NATA is requesting set-aside funds to cover on-demand carriers. Jacque Rosser, manager of flight operations for NATA, explains that many operators that have applied for funds and have received them, have in fact received about 10 percent of the total of their losses.
The set-aside funds would cover the majority of losses, and would be open to all operators, including those who had already received some economic relief and those who had not yet applied. NATA is also requesting a right of appeal for operators who feel they were not given sufficient funds.
"We heard that the airlines, if they had an operating cost of six cents per mile, they were getting four cents per mile. For the charter operator, ... they were looking at 25 cents per mile cost and up, but getting that same four cents," says Rosser.
Rosser says there is overwhelming support for the separate funds within the industry and expects to hear one way or the other by March.
NEW FINAL RULES
In recent months, FAA has released the final rule on the revamped FAR Part 145 and the final rule on life-limited parts (FAR Parts 43 and 45). NATA and PAMA report that for the most part, industry comments were incorporated into changes between the NPRMs and final rules.
The new Part 145 was released as a final rule, but left two large sections unchanged. FAA will revisit and redefine the categories of classes and ratings, and define and set requirements for quality assurance systems under Part 145. Schober anticipates recommendations from the Aviation Rulemak-ing Advisory Committee (ARAC) in the next several months.
The ARAC is working to determine what repair stations with Part 145 certificates will need to do in terms of quality assurance. An ARAC is also examining the rating systems included in Part 145. NATA is participating in the interpretation of the new rule and anticipates no major problems with its implementation.
The revamped Part 145 calls for recurrent training programs for maintenance technicians. Schober says that for now the requirement is merely to have a program and follow it; exactly what the program should entail has not been defined. Advisory material is said to be in the works, but FAA has not yet published it.
The final rule on the disposition of life-limited parts was released mid-January. Schober says, "Fortunately the FAA took most of the comments that industry gave and tried to incorporate them as best they could ... The removal of parts actually becomes a maintenance task, where it was never before. The person who removes the part now is responsible for maintaining the record on the serviceability of that life-limited part," he says.
Criminal negligence and liability are still a hurdle for PAMA members. Schober explains that technicians aware of an unsafe act who make that information known could be called into a court of law to defend themselves in civil litigation and even criminal prosecution. PAMA feels that alerting FAA of safety hazards and averting accidents is important, and that the threat of criminal liability should be removed.
"Since the manufacturers have the statute of repose that says, 'If the airplane is 18 years old or older, we aren't liable for it,' the plaintiff attorneys are looking elsewhere to file suits," says Schober. And other than the obvious implications, PAMA cites the difficulty this liability has created in recruiting new A&P mechanics.
Schober says that PAMA will be involved in several meetings on the issue in the next few months.
And the mechanic shortage, while not much of an issue today, may actually be worse when it resurfaces, says Schober. "Of all of those mechanics that were laid off, some percentage of them are going to find employment in fields outside of aviation and not return. However long it is until the airlines are back up to their normal schedule, they're going to need that many people to go back to work to keep the airplanes flying. But if those people have gone and found jobs elsewhere, then all of a sudden we've got to fill in, in a much shorter timeframe, with people out of schools that we recruit into the industry," Schober says. "When the industry recovers, the shortage is going to be significantly worse."
A few of the marquis events at AS3 in Indianapolis
GARVEY TO BE HONORED
NATA will present its Distinguished Service Award to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey at the AS3 show. Garvey will be presented with the award at the NATA Industry Excellence Awards luncheon on March 26. Garvey will also speak at the convention.
RALPH HOOD TO SPEAK
AIRPORT BUSINESS's own "Ground Clutter" columnist Ralph Hood is scheduled to speak at the Aviation Services and Suppliers Supershow.
Hood will also speak at the Women in Aviation conference, March 13-15 in Nashville.
A FOCUS ON TRAINING
NATA, as part of its ongoing emphasis on training, will be promoting its 9-module Professional Line Service Training Program, a key part of its Aviation Training Institute acquisition last December. NATA will combine the ATI training with the NATA Safety 1st Program to provide a comprehensive, more affordable solution to FBO's line service training needs.
NOISE: NATIONAL VS. LOCAL CONTROL
Noise continues to be a community relations issue for airports and aviation businesses around the country.
The latest struggle has been at Vero Beach (FL) Municipal Airport, where the city manager put out a notice limiting touch and go operations. NATA sent a letter explaining that such decisions cannot be made at will by local municipalities and the notice was withdrawn.
"It's always going to be an issue for an airport, and all of the airport businesses have to actively manage that part of their business. When you talk about real noise, it is perception, it's not reality. There are a few individuals out there who really perceive this noise and it really bugs them," says David Kennedy, manager of government and industry affairs for NATA. "Those people can also be very active and very vocal about their opposition to it."
NATA's Community Relations Toolkit will now include a video. Clif Stroud, director of communications, explains that the video is intended to be shown to community groups in place of or in addition to presentations from pro-airport groups. The video covers the advantages of having a local airport.
THE ONGOING SUBPART K ISSUE
At least one fractional ownership operator (Bombardier) is electing to operate under Part 135 rather than Part 91, due to grounding issues related to 9/11.
MEIGS FIELD UPDATE
While a major hurdle was overcome in the fight to save Meigs, its long-term survival is not yet assured.