Congress has returned….and is about to leave

September 10, 2014

By Bill Deere, NATA Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs

On Monday, Congress returned from its traditional August recess but will only stay in session for a short time before adjourning again to campaign in advance of the mid-term elections.  The House is expected to leave by September 19th with the Senate adjourning as early as the following week.  In such a brief time, not much is expected by way of legislative action but the first important step was put in place yesterday to avoid a government shut down when current funding expires on October 1st.

Yesterday, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), unveiled a draft continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government at current spending levels through December 11th. A CR is legislation designed to keep the government running on a temporary basis until the completion of the twelve regular appropriations bills.  The CR also contains other provisions including a proposal to extend the authorization of the Export-Import Bank until June 30, 2015.   For the FAA it means funding – for the moment at least – below the increased levels recommended for FY2015 by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.  The House will consider the CR the week of the 15th.

As a result, long-term government funding and final resolution of issues like tax extenders are likely on the back burner until a post-election “lame duck” session.  The duration and issues to be considered in the lame duck will turn on the results of the general election – particularly the battle for control of the Senate.

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More Gridlock in the FAA Budget Process

July 31, 2014

By Bill Deere, NATA Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs

Congress will shortly adjourn for its annual summer recess and return after Labor Day for a short session before adjourning again in advance of the November general elections.  As a result, it is likely that commencing October 1st the FAA will once again be forced to operate — for at least some period of time — through another stop-gap funding bill.  How did this come to pass?

It wasn’t supposed to. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, the agreement that ended the government shutdown, was supposed to pave the way for the first regular appropriations to fund the government since FY2010.  By establishing the overall discretionary budget ceiling for FY2015, the legislation was intended to provide for at least one year of relative budget peace.

At first that’s what we saw, a return, for at least one year, of regular order in the federal budget process.  As we reported to you in May and June, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held their budget review hearings and developed the annual spending bills, including the one that funds the FAA.  You may recall there was a lot in those bills about which to be excited.  Both the House and Senate versions provided overall FAA spending levels above the Administration request, funded contract towers, included prohibitions against the development of new user fees, and provided guidance to the agency on important issues including streamlining the certification process and improving the consistency of regulatory interpretation.

While the appropriations process moved along in the House of Representatives, the process has hit a wall in the United States Senate.  Spending bills have been reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support.  However the battle for control of the Senate has devolved into a fight over amendments to be made in order during floor consideration of legislation.  The result, only critical “must pass” legislation to fix the problems at the Veterans Administration and prevent a cessation of highway funding are considered, in other words — more gridlock.

Where do we go from here? After November’s general election Congress is expected to return for a “lame duck” session.  We can only hope that post-election the Senate will be able to take up these bills so general aviation does not lose the benefits of the funding and guidance contained in these FAA spending bills.

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FAA Appropriations Bill Reaches Senate Floor

June 5, 2014

By Bill Deere, NATA Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs

Today, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved for floor action its version of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 that will begin on October 1, 2014. The bill provides $15.86 billion to the FAA for next year, $580 million above the administration request. Similar to its House counterpart, a report prepared by the Committee accompanies the legislation and provides greater detail on the spending levels for individual FAA programs as well as expressions of congressional interest and required reports on a variety of aviation related subjects.

The Committee provided $149 million for the contract tower program including $10.35 million for the cost share program both amounts above the Administration request. These levels track very closely with the levels requested by NATA and number of other aviation associations in a letter to House and Senate Appropriators earlier this year. 

Like its House counterpart, the Senate also expressed support for streamlining the certification process and requested a report on the measures of effectiveness that FAA is applying to its work in implementing the recommendations of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).

Senate appropriators expressed particular interest in the FAA’s progress toward improving the consistency of regulatory interpretation.  It exemplified its concern by citing a recent divergence in interpretation between the Seattle, Juneau and Anchorage flight standards district offices. As a result, the Committee directed the FAA to include a section in its annual aviation safety workforce plan devoted to the actions undertaken and planned by the agency to improve the consistency of its regulatory interpretations.

Majority Leader Reid has indicated at least two weeks will be set aside in June for the consideration of appropriations bills. The full House will take up its version of the legislation as early as next week. NATA will continue to keep you apprised as events unfold.

FAA Appropriations and the Road Ahead

May 22, 2014

By Bill Deere, NATA Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs

On Wednesday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved for floor action the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 that will begin on October 1, 2014. Of interest to NATA members, the legislation includes next year’s spending levels for the FAA. Less well known is that a report prepared by the Committee accompanies the legislation and provides greater detail on the spending levels for individual FAA programs as well as expressions of congressional interest and required reports on a variety of aviation related subjects.

While we know the bill provides in total $15.7 billion to the FAA for next year, $446 million above the administration request, the bill language is important as, once enacted, it establishes in law the overall spending levels for the FAA’s major accounts including; operations, facilities and equipment, airport infrastructure grants, and research and development. It also includes bill language for programs important to general aviation including language setting minimum spending levels for the contract tower program ($140 million) and its cost share program ($9.5 million). In fact, earlier in the development of the legislation, NATA joined a number of other aviation associations in a letter to the House and Senate Appropriators requesting this action. Most important, the bill includes language prohibiting the FAA from finalizing or implementing “any regulation that would promulgate new aviation user fees not specifically authorized by law.” This prevents the agency from unilaterally establishing a user fee funded air traffic control system and this type of bill language is known around the Hill as a “limitation.”

The legislation, already 155 pages long, would be many times that size if Congress were to include in the text spending levels for every program within each major category of spending. And because the spending levels would be enacted into law, there could be no deviation from those levels even if a problem were to develop. Hence the need for a report to accompany the legislation that further explains congressional intent. Report language does not have statutory force and departments and agencies are not legally bound by their declarations. But as the Congressional Research Service explains (CRS 98-558), “executive branch agencies take them (report language) seriously because they must justify their budget requests annually to the Appropriations Committees.”

So the report accompanying this year’s Transportation Appropriations bill amplifies on the Committee’s funding for the contract tower program, describing the program as “a safe, cost-efficient mechanism for providing air traffic services to pilots and local communities.” The Committee also expressed its concern about the certification of air operators and the consistency of its rulings across field offices noting, “Lengthy delays in certification approvals present real barriers to companies seeking to operate in the National Airspace System, limiting the economic growth of the aviation industry.” Further, it directed the agency to prepare a report by April 1, 2015 on its progress in making the certification process more efficient.

The Committee also looked at a variety of other issues including performance based navigation, providing its work with funding above the administration request. Finally, on the research side, the Committee provided additional funding for alternative general aviation fuels stating that it “looks forward to updates on the continued progress on this initiative as it effectively balances environmental improvement with aviation safety, technical challenges, and economic impact.”

The full House will take up the legislation in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee has begun the development of its own version of the bill. The passage of the bills by their respective chambers will trigger a “conference” between House and Senate Appropriators to resolve the differences between the two versions. These are important pieces of legislation that have a great impact on the future of the FAA and the industry. NATA will continue to keep you apprised as events unfold.

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Should I Participate in the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program Strictly Based on Price?

March 27, 2014

The National Air Transportation Association is celebrating a highly successful first-year anniversary of the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program, administered exclusively by Beacon Aviation Insurance Services. As we move forward into our second year, the question has come up: “Should I select the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program strictly because of the price?” The short answer is no.

To give you an overview of workers’ compensation, you should know that almost every business with employees in the United States faces the need to acquire workers’ compensation insurance. Most states (with a few exceptions) essentially require employers to purchase an insurance policy to handle their statutory obligations for workers who are injured or made ill due to a workplace exposure. Whether your business is small or large, handling the expense and effort of meeting statutory obligations is a challenge.

Workers’ compensation laws provide fairly comprehensive and specific benefits to workers who suffer workplace injury or illness. Benefits include medical expenses, death benefits, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation. Failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance or, otherwise, meet a state’s regulations in this regard can leave an employer exposed not only to paying these benefits out of pocket, but also to paying penalties levied by the states. So, how do you balance the need of providing this vital coverage while protecting your bottom line?

First, we should examine how the costs of workers’ compensation insurance are created. Your premium includes the estimated annual pay of your employees, multiplied by the rate (cost) for each of your individual class codes (specific job classifications). This rate is then combined with other taxes, fees, and either debit or credits (discounts or additional premium based on factors, such as loss history and optional coverage) that are available to your specific company. Once all of those are added up, we come up with your specific estimated annual premium.

The closest thing there is to a uniform set of rules for premium computation was established by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). This organization creates policy forms and writes the rules for premium computation in the majority of states.

Now that you have your premium, you should also look at: what is the carrier’s history and financial strength?; will your claims be handled quickly and efficiently; and, what other services are available to help you operate a safer work environment and ultimately save premium dollars?

Backed by A-Rated Companion P&C (a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield), the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program™ includes all applicable credits, access to one of the most comprehensive loss control and safety minded programs in the industry, direct access to the nation’s largest physician and provider networks, no-cost, loss control services, and an industry-leading dividend plan that pays out in full, just 10 months after your policy’s expiration date.

Along with checking out all the facts of your coverage, you may also want to look into recommendations from industry leaders. One recommendation comes from NATA President & CEO Thomas L. Hendricks, “NATA is thrilled with the growth and member acceptance of this program in its inaugural year. Our participating members are finding the EZ Pay option plans, quicker dividend payouts and up-front rewards, for those with the best worker safety experience, to be the most attractive benefits of this program.”

Beacon Aviation Insurance is available to help answer any of your questions or concerns, offer you more information on your specific premium, and work with your agent to obtain a quote from the NATA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program.

You can reach Beacon Aviation Insurance directly at 941-953-5390 or; and through your current insurance agent.

Submitted by Bob McManus, CPCU
VP, Partner
Beacon Aviation Insurance Services

Article first appeared in NATA’s first quarter Aviation Business Journal. Click here to read more.

Disaster Preparedness – Lessons Learned

November 12, 2013

Is your company prepared for a disaster, unrelated to an aviation accident? Deliberate, thoughtful preparation can save lives and even save your business from being one of the 40% that don’t reopen after a disaster. Take time now to develop a disaster preparedness plan and continue to learn from others’ experiences.

Lessons Learned

With each major disaster our country faces, we as a society get a little smarter and a little more cautious. Here are a number of lessons we can learn from previous disasters:

1. The first information by the news media is ALWAYS wrong. The initial reports from the Boston Marathon indicated there were four bombs. Cell phones were supposedly blocked by the police on purpose. These details ended up not being true.

2. Normal communication methods might not work. Cell phone towers are often overwhelmed during disasters. Text messages often get through and the American Red Cross or other groups often set up various methods to check in with family, friends, and employees.

3. There will be flight restrictions. Whether the flight restrictions are to mitigate the possibility of an aerial terrorist attack, limit the media coverage of the event, or just ensure aircraft involved in recovery efforts have the room to move, expect flight restrictions and be prepared to communicate those to your staff and customers.

4. The proliferation of 24/7 news programs is bad for us – emotionally and even physically. Studies following 9/11 showed repeated exposures to the video and photos of that terrible day might have slowed the recovery of people affected and provoked stress responses in individuals who weren’t immediately affected. Stay informed but don’t be glued to the TV, radio, or Internet news sites.

5. There will always be “helpers.” “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’” said Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame. Look for the helpers. BE a helper if you’re a position to be one.

6. Know there’s a difference between “vigilance” and “hysteria.” Whether we’re talking about natural disasters, security events, or even a health epidemic, it’s possible to be prepared without your daily life being negatively impacted. Don’t believe a disaster will happen to someone else. Be prepared but don’t be hysterical.

This excerpt was taken from an ABJ Q3 article written by Lindsey C. McFarren called “Disaster Preparedness.” To read the full article, click here.

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Walk A Mile In My Shoes – Part 3

September 20, 2013

Best practices are methods or techniques that consistently produce superior results or outcomes.  Best practices evolve over time as better – new and/or improved – methods or techniques are identified through experience which includes “trial and error” and the practical application of “lessons learned”. 

 Without a doubt, it is wise to study the best practices of successful organizations (both public and private).  Certainly, sponsors and businesses can learn by studying the processes, procedures, and systems used by successful organizations and adopting (or adapting – for the situation and/or circumstances) the best practices identified.  By implementing best practices, sponsors and businesses can leverage and build on the success of others.  This is a continuous process – as best practices are fluid and dynamic.

Please click the following link to read the full article in the third quarter Aviation Business Journal (ABJ):

Please click the following link to read the full article in the second quarter Aviation Business Journal (ABJ): The first installment of this 3-part series on doing business with airport sponsors appeared in the first quarter ABJ and the second installment appeared in the second quarter ABJ. To visit the ABJ issue archive, click the following link:

To visit or return to NATA’s website: Follow NATA at or Like Us at


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