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A Year for the Record Book – And More to Come

By Ed Bolen

With each new year comes an opportunity to review milestones and reflect on challenges ahead. In 2007, the business aviation community withstood a massive political and PR campaign by the big airlines to impose user fees and take control of the air transportation system. According to one Washington newspaper, the airlines spent $11 million on lobbying in just the first half of the year.

Seen from that perspective, 2007 will be a year for the books. Holding off this level of effort from the airlines to promote user fees was no small feat, and it was accomplished with the support from the many NBAA Members who took action, telling Congress they oppose user fees and support the fuel tax to help pay for aviation system modernization.

As 2007 drew to a close, Congress postponed until the start of this year consideration of a long-term “reauthorization” to fund the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This means that, in 2008, the business aviation community will need to continue telling lawmakers to retain and build upon the fuel tax as the best way for general aviation (GA) to help pay for air traffic control (ATC) modernization.

But even as we reflect on our progress in the fight against user fees in 2007, a final bill that rejects user fees, upholds the fuel tax and maintains congressional oversight of the nation’s ATC system will be just as difficult to achieve in 2008.

We also know that while the user fee fight will continue to be a top legislative priority, our industry also will need to contend with a number of other policy concerns in the coming year. GA security will continue to be a priority, as proposals by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration affecting private aircraft operations could move toward full development in 2008. NBAA and the industry must continue working with regulatory agencies to harden our industry from terrorist attacks without hampering mobility, and we are encouraged that federal security officials have indicated a goal of achieving a higher level of GA security without compromising vital transportation services.

Safety issues have always been a top priority for NBAA and the industry, and this emphasis will continue in 2008. As just one example, we will remain focused on promoting best practices that truly support safety and help Members understand complex issues, such as those surrounding the FAA’s complex A008 operations specification.

While NBAA will remain focused on these and other issues at the federal level, we also will continue to support Members’ local interests through our team of regional representatives, and we will continue to support Members through our web site, numerous publications, operations and business-focused programs and seminars, and other services.

I look forward to working with you in what promises to be another significant year for business aviation.