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Sun, Oct 24, 2004

NATA Blasts OHare Slot Rule NPRM

Says FAA is "ignorant" when it comes to on-demand nature of general aviation

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has filed comments with the FAA challenging the agency's proposal to incorporate a reservation system for unscheduled arrivals at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD).  The FAA proposes to implement a so-called reservation system restricting the number of arriving unscheduled aircraft at ORD during the hours of 0700 through 2059, Central Time, beginning November 1, 2004, and continuing through April of 2005. 

NATA's comments charge that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) demonstrates the ignorance of the FAA as to the on-demand operating tendencies of the general aviation industry, disregards the economic effect that it will have on the businesses stationed at ORD, and dismisses requirements outlined within the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980.

In the NPRM, the FAA states that operators could simply "shift certain planned flights to another time with an available reservation, or potentially operate during unrestricted hours."

"This statement clearly demonstrates the FAA's ignorance when considering the 'on-demand' nature of the general aviation industry," stated NATA's vice president of government and industry affairs Eric Byer.  "The point of charter and private aircraft transportation is to go where you need to when you need to. It's shocking that the FAA cannot grasp this fundamental aspect of the industry."

The FAA also states that it will "closely monitor weekend operations… when lower volumes of scheduled arrivals would allow allocation of additional reservations for unscheduled flights." 

"The responsible FAA officials have obviously not taken the time to understand our industry. Business travel doesn't generally occur on weekends - additional slots on these days are of little value," Byer asserted.

The association also expressed its general concern with the FAA clearly favoring one class of carriers over another.  "This is yet another example of the inappropriate and unjust preferential treatment provided by the FAA to the scheduled carriers over their non-scheduled commercial air carrier (charter) competitors," Byer explained. 

NATA also claims the NPRM provides for a disturbingly short ten-day comment period.  The comment period is even more outrageous than outlined as the NPRM was sent to the Federal Register on Friday, October 15th but was not published until Wednesday, October 20th.  This provided industry with only four business days to comment to the FAA. The FAA also claims that because only two entities would be affected, the economic impact will be minimal.

"It is clear that the FAA is once again dismissing its responsibility to conduct a comprehensive and qualified economic impact assessment of both the operators as well as fixed base facilities that reside at O'Hare," Byer said.  "Wanting to rush this arbitrary rule through does not allow the FAA to shirk its responsibilities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act."

"NATA is opposed to the proposed reservation system for unscheduled arrivals at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD)," Byer concluded.  "The association believes this is an unnecessary, unjustified and airline driven restriction that creates additional financial hardships for an industry still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks." 



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