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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.

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Update 2018 FAA Authorization Legislation

Status:
On April 13, 2018, the bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the text of its revised FAA reauthorization bill. The legislation, H.R. 4 – The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 – will provide $104.4 billion for the FAA over six years. The legislation is nearly identical to the bill reported out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last year.

Provisions Beneficial to Aviation Businesses:
In addition to the inclusion of NATA-requested provisions that would help the agency operate more efficiently - including streamlining the certification process and improving regulatory consistency - the legislation contains a number of provisions beneficial to general aviation businesses overall, including:

  • The removal of the proposal to privatize our nation’s air traffic control system. In its place, Chairman Shuster included language (Sec. 536) to review total costs allocable to users of air traffic services as well as revenues received. However, as NATA has stated, our nation’s air traffic control system is designed for the airlines, not general aviation, so determining costs for each segment of users is largely irrelevant
  • Workforce development studies to promote careers in aviation (Sec. 526, 527)
  • Requiring the Oklahoma Registry Office to remain open during a government shutdown or emergency (Sec. 529)
  • Language to encourage women in aviation (Sec. 512)
  • A review of flight standards reform metrics (Sec. 231), a task force, to include general aviation, to identify best practices and provide recommendations to streamline flight standards processes and consistent regulatory interpretation (Sec. 232)
Provisions and Amendments to Watch:
NATA staff is working with our policy committees to understand the potential impacts of certain provisions and possible amendments including:
  • A provision requiring an advisory committee for transparency in the air ambulance industry (Sec. 412);
  • A potential amendment to eliminate the barrier between private and commercial pilots and flights (Scott Taylor – R-VA); and
  • A possible amendment intended to stop the potential national security risks posed by what some consider the often anonymous and opaque ownership of U.S. registered aircraft (Stephen Lynch – D-MA).
Next Steps:
The bill has been approved by House Transportation Committee Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio, and no formal re-vote of the committee will be needed. The bill will now go to the full House of Representatives for floor consideration the week of April 23rd. The Senate will soon vote on their companion bill, S. 1405, and both chambers will convene a conference committee to discuss differences and combine both bills. We look forward to working with Congress to enact this long-term reauthorization later this year.
For more information about this and other issues related to the FAA please contact Rebecca Mulholland, Director of Legislative Affairs, at rmulholland@nata.aero