NATA 75: An Industry Voice Is More Important Than Ever

December 28, 2015


As we launch into our anniversary year, reading the excellent history of the association written by Paul Seidenman and David J. Spanovich (page 18) underscores just how important it is for aviation businesses to have a voice to represent them in the public policy arena. As the article demonstrates, NATA’s birth was directly linked to the future of civil aviation, when the association’s founders had the vision to join together and intervene at a critical juncture, not letting the military in effect—take over—American aviation. In fact, the article is replete with examples, large and small, of how the association’s intervention made a difference in supporting aviation businesses’ contin­ued growth in this vital, and uniquely American, part of our economy.

It is easy to understand the advantages of membership when viewed from a purely business perspective. Many NATA members, for example, take advantage of the association’s industry leading workers’ compensa­tion insurance program or perhaps its Safety 1st training. However, the need for a public policy presence is not something that is always readily apparent nor easily quantified.

Perhaps because of our history, NATA members see that need. In our recent membership survey, advocacy was rated as one of the most important aspects of membership. It is also borne out by the fact that when the call for help goes out to aviation businesses, NATA members respond.

Looking ahead to 2016 we, like our founders, continue to see challenges and opportunities for aviation busi­nesses. On our immediate horizon is the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill. While events in 2015, the leadership crisis that resulted in a new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and the difficul­ties of financing a multi-year surface transportation bill, slowed down the FAA bill in Congress—make no mis­take about it—the airlines still want the keys to the air traffic control system.

In early December, Airlines for America (the trade group representing the major carriers) and the CEOs of the nation’s six major airlines were in Washington, D.C., talking to lawmak­ers about their desire to create an independent, user-fee funded air traffic control organization. Don’t think they are serious? When the world’s largest airline, Delta, announced it was leav­ing the trade group in a disagreement over this and other policies the airlines are pursuing, the remaining members waived the association’s required de­parture notice allowing Delta to leave immediately.

The idea of privatizing air traffic control has been one pursued by others as well, some frustrated by the pace of modernization, others concerned the congressional budget process has bro­ken down to the point where funding for the agency may no longer be able to keep up with the future needs of the system.

While NATA agrees the FAA could certainly stand the injection of more private sector practices, we view the unknowns associated with corporati­zation as simply too great to risk. Can such a proposal be safely implemented in a system many times larger and far more complex than any other in the world? Will its implementation set back the cause of modernization rather than enhance it? And what happens to general aviation, a uniquely American user not really a large factor elsewhere in the world? Will new costs and fees in effect deny your businesses and cus­tomers access to airports and airways necessary to your operating a viable business?

While a huge concern, I don’t want to leave you with the impression this is the sole issue confronting avia­tion businesses. We are still working to unwind a 2012 IRS opinion that concluded that aircraft management fees are “transportation” and therefore management service providers should be assessing the 7.5 percent commer­cial ticket tax on amounts paid for those services. We are also working as part of a broad national coalition to bring certainty to investment policy by making permanent bonus depreciation and Section 179 expensing. Finally, the NATA regulatory team is working across a myriad of issues, before the FAA, the TSA, and Customs, among others, looking to bring common-sense and your real world perspective to the issues under consideration by the exec­utive branch.

Our issues are not always defen­sive. Our committee members were instrumental in developing a positive agenda for the FAA reauthorization bill. In fact one agenda item, requiring the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, to conduct a study of diversions of non-commercial jet fuel tax revenues to the Highway Trust Fund, was just incorporated into the recently enacted surface transportation bill. We are also particularly proud of the ongoing effort by NATA and AAAE members to identify and address the issues that divide and can unite airports and their tenants.

So as Tom Hendricks says, our future is bright and getting brighter by the day. As we move into what could be a watershed year in aviation, stay involved, and stay engaged. In the end, you are aviation businesses best advocates!

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

A Different Viewpoint

January 13, 2011

By Michael France, NATA Director of Regulatory Affairs

I began my career in aviation working on the ramp at a mid-size FBO in the Washington D.C. suburbs. As an individual who had always been fascinated with airplanes and aviation (I used to beg my father every weekend to take me to Dulles Airport to watch the planes take off), I knew I had found my home. Within just a few months, I found myself promoted to a supervisory position; and within two years, I was running the line service department. Soon after becoming the line services manager, my company sent me to an NATA Line Service Supervisor Training Seminar. Up to that point, my entire career in aviation had been based at one airport with one company, creating a rather limited viewpoint on the breadth of our industry.

The first day of the seminar was eye opening (I think that’s the way most people describe their first reaction to hearing Walter Chartrand speak. Don’t worry Walter, I mean that in a good way!). Even before the first speaker had said a word, I learned more about the nature of FBO operations around the nation than I had ever known. I spoke with line managers, supervisors and operations managers from FBOs and corporate flight facilities around the nation. For the first time, I was able to view my own company almost as the owner did, and it forever changed my outlook and my approach to my job. I went home focused on making my company successful but also understanding far more about the industry of which I was a part. I now had contacts who worked at other companies with whom I spoke regularly, giving me the opportunity to learn from their challenges and successes, and they from mine. It was during that first seminar that I made the decision that general aviation and FBO operations were more than just an industry, they were my industry.

Next month, NATA will host our third annual Spring Training event. Spring Training is a combination of three independent seminars in one location: the Line Service Supervisors Training Seminar, the Safety 1st Trainer Seminar and the Environmental Compliance Seminar. All three provide tremendous innate value for attendees, but I wanted to use this blog to see them from a different vantage point, that of the supervisor or manager you might be sending. My experience has shown me that FBOs (especially small or mid size) tend to be built around a few key dedicated staff members who love what they do. Cultivating that attitude and allowing it to grow can be one of the best means of motivating those individuals. NATA Spring Training provides the opportunity for key staff members to see their own importance in your business as well as in the industry at large. Equipping your most valuable employees with a sense of empowerment as well as importance is, in my opinion, one of the greatest, but maybe least considered, values of training events like NATA’s Spring Training.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a presenter again this year at Spring Training and I look forward to the opportunity to meet your company’s valued staff!

For more information on Spring Training Week, please visit

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