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Fri, Feb 11, 2011

NATA Concludes Successful FBO Leadership Conference

Participants See Positive Signs For A Slow Industry Recovery

More than 100 FBO and airport professionals gathered this week at the National Air Transportation Association's (NATA) annual FBO Leadership Conference (FBOLC) in Savannah, Georgia. The two-day event began on Monday with a general aviation leadership lunch and ended Tuesday with a session to segue into the NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference, February 9-11, at the Savannah Convention Center.

In the opening session, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President and CEO Craig Fuller said that general aviation is in the "best of times and worst of times." In the positive column, collaboration among the general aviation associations and the General Aviation Caucus are playing tremendous roles in strengthening the industry. Among the negatives are continued challenges with the economy and budget, but Fuller, NATA President and CEO James K. Coyne and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Senior Vice President Steve Brown all agreed that they are seeing positive signs in the industry and are becoming more optimistic about the economy.

NATA's James Coyne

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) welcomed FBOLC attendees to Georgia and mentioned several general aviation positives in this region, including a $5 million expansion at Gulfstream and the creation of new jobs. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) praised Coyne and NATA for keeping him and others informed on what general aviation does and for making positive changes in the relationship between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the private sector. Coyne encouraged attendees to enlist his help in organizing and leading local meetings with Members of Congress, county officials, customers and others to continue the crucial work of promoting the importance of general aviation and what it does.

TSA General Manager of General Aviation Security Brian Delauter announced that changes are coming for the DCA Access Standard Security Program (DASSP). All operators who are currently approved as gateway airports to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport should contact their personal security specialist by March 1, 2012, for updated information. Delauter also encouraged those interested in participating in the DASSP to reach out to their local TSA office to learn more about the program. NATA Director of Safety and Training Amy Koranda emphasized that NATA's Safety 1st program is more than just its Professional Line Service Training (PLST) Online Program. Koranda explained that included within the NATA Safety 1st program are Flight Crew Briefings, Operational Best Practices, Safety Management Systems (SMS) for ground and air, workshops, and webinars as well as a new ground audit standard that will be introduced this spring. On the topic of SMS, Koranda said that an SMS is a business plan for safety, explaining, "It is critical for a business to be engaged in the development of an SMS program. A canned manual is not an ideal solution to encourage employee engagement, nor will it reflect your business." Coyne added, "NATA's Safety 1st SMS should be more than you need to be FAA compliant. NATA's Safety 1st SMS is ICAO compliant, and that is what the FAA is looking to as a model."

And NATA Director of Regulatory Affairs Michael France and AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman discussed the factors behind the Avgas issue and gave a status report on where the issue now stands. Hackman and France outlined the purpose of the formation of the Avgas Coalition that includes NATA, AOPA and NBAA along with other leading aviation organizations. The mission of the coalition is to collaborate, coordinate and provide leadership on the development and implementation of the process by which an unleaded avgas solution will be identified. Among the most important points to remember are that this is a multi-year process, no date has been set to ban 100LL gas, everything is being taken into consideration and we have to get this right because the outcome will affect future generations. Most importantly, since this issue will take a number of years to resolve, the industry must stay engaged.

A panel including FAA Manager of the Airport Compliance Division, Airport Compliance and Field Operations Branch, Kevin Willis, Nantucket Memorial Airport Manager Al Peterson and McBreen & Kopko Partner Leonard Kirsch discussed the value of airport minimum standards to the future of businesses. Willis listed airport minimum standards as one of the five key tools that the FAA recommends to airport managers and businesses. He said that among the benefits of minimum standards is helping to maintain the quality of service, ensuring an open and competitive field, protecting airport users, establishing a process for development of the airport and promoting safety. Kirsch added that comprehensive and inclusive minimum standards can be the best friend of an airport and FBO. He also advocated that, at a minimum, minimum standards should be reviewed periodically. Peterson added that minimum standards can be changed, but apply to aeronautical purposes only and are for future development, not existing conditions.
"The 2011 NATA FBO Leadership Conference provided a robust lineup of issues important to the association's member companies," concluded Coyne. "I was thrilled with the participation level and involvement by attendees at each of our sessions."



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