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GA Leaders Panel at NBAA2013 Focuses on Industry Collaboration in Challenging Times

October 23, 2013

Leaders of the nine top general aviation (GA) associations met on Oct. 23 at the GA Leaders Panel, which kicked off the Second Day Opening General Session at the 2013 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2013) in Las Vegas, NV.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen moderated the lively discussion about the state of the general aviation industry, including business aviation, in the continuing aftermath of federal budget sequestration and the 16-day government shutdown earlier this month.

"The groups up here continue to talk about how we operate in a challenging, tight fiscal environment. How we're going to do it today, and in the future," said Bolen. "We are going to have to come forward and offer some solutions to work with the federal government at finding ways to promote our industry despite flat, and in some cases declining, budgets."

The discussion began by highlighting positive developments, most notably on the legislative front. General Aircraft Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce pointed to the unanimous, bipartisan support in Congress for the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act, aimed at streamlining the Part 23 certification process for light aircraft.

"This will emerge, hopefully this week or the next week, and go to the president's desk for his signature," Bunce said. "This is the start [of a model] that will allow twice the safety, at half the cost – half the cost for industry, and half the cost for the government."

Aircraft Electronics Association President Paula Derks noted the importance of this legislation to the avionics industry. "We want to leverage commercial resources to work smart, work efficiently, and be prepared from the very beginning of the design of [a] product, through its installation into an airplane," she added.

Helicopter Association International President and CEO Matt Zuccaro pointed to ongoing work on the FAA's NextGen air traffic control network as another sign of progress. "The ADS-B [automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast] system of NextGen was turned on in the Gulf of Mexico in January 2010," he noted. "That year, in the Gulf of Mexico, there were no reported accidents. That was an unbelievable feat considering they fly almost 350,000 hours a year out there, transporting millions of people."

A key concern shared by panel members was ensuring that GA concerns and priorities continue to be properly represented in Washington, DC.

"The dialogue [in the FAA Management Advisory Council] is now centered completely on the prioritization and oversight of the FAA without involvement of GA," noted Jack Pelton, chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association. "It's all about the airlines, and the 35 major hub airports. Nowhere in the conversation is, 'How do I ensure the [National Airspace System] and infrastructure we've put in place accounts for the J-3 Cub up through the TBM?"

Nevertheless, all agreed that continued engagement with regulatory officials is key to promoting the industry's development. Tom Hendricks, president of the National Air Transportation Association, stressed the benefits from industry collaboration with regulators as seen through the FAA's NextGen Advisory Committee.

"It's more important than ever right now, as we're going through very challenging political issues and fiscal issues, that the general aviation associations be aligned to speak with one voice," he added. "We have to talk with our regulators, not at our regulators, and understand what their challenges are."

"With our advocacy, led by the leaders here and focused on the right outcomes, I think we're going to get some movement from the FAA, because they don't have a choice," added Mark Baker, the recently named president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Also participating in the GA Leaders Panel were Henry Ogrodzinski, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, and John McKenna, president of the Recreational Aviation Foundation. Both discussed the impact and importance of local advocacy efforts to supporting the continued freedom and growth of general aviation.