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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

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4 – the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, by a vote of 393 to 13, on April 27, 2018, to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for six years and provide long-term funding, stability and reform for the agency. “The legislation contains many NATA-supported provisions that will improve safety and address the needs of aviation businesses across the country, including efforts to streamline certification and flight standards processes as well as improve the consistency of FAA regulatory interpretations,” stated NATA President Marty Hiller in a press release following passage. “We are also pleased by the inclusion of studies to assess the current state of, barriers of entry into, and options to increase the future supply of individuals in the aviation workforce, and a provision to alleviate delays in compliance with existing federal regulations to vet prospective pilots through access to the National Driver Register.”

The legislation also calls for continued operation of the Oklahoma Registry Office during a government shutdown or emergency, a review of flight standards reform metrics through the development of a task force to identify best practices, as well as language to review progress made by the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), of which NATA is a member. “This bill reflects the engagement and dedication of NATA and its members to help shape policy that preserves safety for the aviation industry and ensures the continued development and implementation of NextGen and FAA reform,” Hiller concluded.

NATA will now turn focus to the Senate, as the upper chamber begins consideration of companion FAA reauthorization legislation, S. 1405 – The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017. A comprehensive bill, containing language from both House and Senate bills, must be signed in to law by September 30th, when current FAA funding authority and programs expire. NATA will again seek our members’ support and input as the legislative process continues, and we look forward to having a long-term funding bill signed in to law that will provide certainty for the FAA and the general aviation industry. 

To learn more about the journey to passage of H.R. 4 and provisions that benefit the general aviation community, listen to NATA’s Legislative Affairs podcast.

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