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Member Update: Initiative to Economically Regulate FBOs
Early in 2017, the FAA requested NATA comment upon documents provided to the agency by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) asserting that FBOs and airports are maximizing their respective revenue streams in a manner that is unfair to pilots. 

In response to the initial allegations, NATA presented a state of the aviation business sector overview to the FAA. The overview, developed with the assistance of FBO and air charter members, discusses the costs of operating airport businesses and the many variables that go into determining its pricing structure — including capital invested, lease duration, fuel volume, personnel expenses, hours of operation, and traffic types. The FAA is in the process of reviewing comments from other stakeholders and will contact us should they have any follow-up questions.

On March 30th, AOPA subsequently announced it will request the FAA either require FBOs to provide access to ramps and facilities or airports to provide pilots with free public ramp space. The announcement chose to attack the FAA for requesting comment on AOPA’s call for economic regulation of FBOs and even criticized NATA for bringing AOPA’s eleven-month campaign to the attention of the aviation business community and other industry stakeholders. Despite claims to the contrary, AOPA's documents likens FBOs to public utilities and requests the agency examine oversight mechanisms in other industries as possible models — a pure and straightforward move toward economic regulation — borne out by its March 30th announcement.

Importantly, there are existing FAA mechanisms to address situations where an FBO or airport is violating grant assurance requirements to furnish services on a “reasonable, and not unjustly discriminatory, basis to all users thereof.” Neither NATA nor its members support those violating that important assurance, which would also represent a breach of faith with their customers.

On August 28th, AOPA released an article announcing the filing of three Part 13 complaints alleging “egregious FBO pricing practices” at Florida’s Key West International Airport (EYW), Illinois’s Waukegan National Airport (UGN), and North Carolina’s Asheville Regional Airport (AVL).

NATA then issued a press release informing the general aviation community that we sent letters to the Orlando Airports District Office, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Memphis Airports District Office in response to the assertions made in the Part 13 complaints.

The assertions made in these complaints reflect a misunderstanding of a number of key points related to the economics of aviation businesses: the pricing of aeronautical services, industry consolidation and the airport sponsor-tenant relationship.

The general aviation community has questioned the necessity of this campaign, as illustrated in three recent articles that discuss the initiative’s intellectual underpinnings.  The articles conclude that FBO pricing has evolved not as a way to maximize revenue from pilots, but rather in response to the changing reality of general aviation.

NATA will continue to meet rhetoric with facts in support of free enterprise and will remain the leading voice of aviation business.

Safety 1st Fuel QC Management System – Breakthrough Tool Enhancing Industry Safety and Efficiency
NATA's Safety 1st Fuel QC Management System (FQMS), a cloud-based digital tool for general and business aviation fuel quality management inspections, record keeping and auditing. The Safety 1st FQMS replaces traditional pen and paper record keeping with an intelligent system that increases management visibility, employee accountability and operational safety. Key features include digital storage and access to all quality control (QC) records; an easy-to-use, mobile-optimized inspection platform; and Compliance Sentry technology that provides a 24-7 eye on your QC system. Location and date/time-stamping of inspections increases team accountability by enabling managers to verify where and when inspections were performed. Read more.


Update 2018 FAA Authorization Legislation

Listen to NATA’s latest Legislative Affairs podcast to learn about the issues impacting aviation businesses on Capitol Hill. 

ATC Corporation

The House version of the FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 2997, containing the controversial proposal to privatize our nation's air traffic control system, still poses a grave threat to the nation's general aviation pilots, airports, and aviation businesses. The legislation’s author, Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), has stated the bill needs commitments from just a few more Members of Congress before it can be scheduled for a floor vote. It's important that Members of Congress hear from the airports and aviation businesses in their districts now — making it critical that you continue to engage with lawmakers by utilizing NATA’s Legislative Action Center.

On June 27, 2017, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R.2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, which creates a user-fee funded air traffic control corporation. The bill passed by a vote of 32 to 25, with general aviation pilot Todd Rokita (R-IN) the only Republican to join in opposing the legislation. NATA and nearly 200 general aviation associations from around the country are united in opposition to the proposal as it continues to represent an unnecessary leap of faith for general aviation and rural America, including risks to stability of the world’s safest air traffic control system. 

The Senate Commerce version of the FAA bill, S.1405, the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 2017, approved on June 29, 2017, does not create an air traffic control corporation. Instead, the legislation assists the agency toward a more efficient operating structure including provisions acting on ideas proposed by NATA.

The Trump Administration's 2019 budget blueprint also includes language to explore this detrimental proposal.

To join NATA’s effort in opposing a proposal that will “produce uncertainty and unintended consequences without achieving the desired outcomes,” visit NATA’s Legislative Action Center and ensure your voice is heard on Capitol Hill.  Act now to prevent privatization of the air traffic control system.  

"Uber in the Sky"

NATA and AOPA worked jointly to educate Congress in support of the FAA’s current policy of limiting the occasions when pilots may seek funds to offset their flights. The 2017 House bill no longer requires the FAA to allow expense sharing but rather requires the FAA to better educate pilots on current regulations and a GAO study of the agency’s policy rationale.  The Senate bill contains no similar provision.

In 2016, a House committee approved FAA bill stripped the agency’s authority to regulate the sharing of flight expenses. Proponents were attempting to create “Uber in the sky” websites (examples: Flytenow, AirPooler, and others) that deliberately bypass the FAA’s safety net of required pilot training and aircraft maintenance for commercial flights.  For example, private pilots with as little as 35 hours of flight time, who have no requirement for minimum liability insurance, and are not required to hold ratings permitting flight in poor weather, could carry passengers for hire. 

A Pro-Active Aviation Business Agenda

FAA bills are also an opportunity to advance a common-sense, pro-aviation business agenda.  For example, the last multi-year FAA bill included an NATA proposal to improve the consistency of regulatory interpretation across the FAA’s regions and district offices.  The NATA staff, working in coordination with its policy committees, is advancing proposals to assist its member companies to operate safely and more efficiently, including:

- Recommendations related to consistency of regulatory interpretation;
- Combatting illegal charter;
- Increasing FAA’s use of delegated authority; and 
- Clarifying that federal air transportation taxes are not applicable to aircraft management services (click here for more information).

For more information about this and other issues related to the FAA please contact Rebecca Mulholland, Director of Legislative Affairs, at rmulholland@nata.aero