Although each aviation trade group has its own membership constituency, priorities, and goals, we all want what is best for our shared air transportation ecosystem. Ultimately, there is more that unites us than divides us. NATA’s own membership spans an array of segments across the aviation business sector from operators to aeronautical service providers, maintenance organizations, general aviation airports and others, but we remain linked with a shared mission – ensuring a healthy, safe, and viable national airspace system (NAS).
FAA Reauthorization has been a time to take stock of what is needed for our businesses to grow, and to do so in the safest possible way. It’s been a time for us to come together in pursuit of policies that will foster those advancements and to rally against efforts that may prove harmful to our progress. NATA’s strategic plan for 2023 plan centered on Partnership, Advocacy, Safety, and Leadership, with FAA Reauthorization creating the ideal climate for us to demonstrate all four: partnership with our fellow aviation groups and members in identifying and advocating for policies that advance safety and ensure the country’s aviation leadership status.
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 3935, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, to reauthorize FAA programs for the next five years. The bill includes NATA-endorsed improvements to the Agency’s operational efficiency, safety oversight, aviation workforce investments, and commitment to innovation. It also addresses NATA’s concerns about FAA backlogs in Part 135 certification and regulatory conformity. NATA was successful in advancing policies for the 135 community that are non-divisive and serve needs across the aviation industry. We were also successful in our work to defeat amendments in the House bill that would have eroded federal preemption over the NAS, limited public charter operations, prevented access to 100LL during the transition to unleaded fuel, and mandated that public-use airports provide subsidized parking for transient private aircraft and require FBOs to allow free access in many cases.
More work remains as the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has yet to consider S. 1939, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023. As introduced, the Senate bill contains several of NATA’s recommendations on Part 135 reform, workforce development, unleaded fuels, and advanced air mobility. However, NATA is opposed to language that would extend FAA regulation over FBOs in the form of a new airport grant assurance, as well as an amendment similar to the airport transient parking language defeated in the House. Your engagement has been and continues to be the key to our success.
We cannot stress enough the power of your voice in efforts to improve the industry operating environment, defeat policies that diminish aviation business competitiveness, and promote those that pave the way for industry progress. The powerful advocacy accomplished in the Senate and House during our Day on the Hill, along with the interaction with FAA leaders, industry experts, and one another at the June Air Charter Summit and NATA Committee Meetings has been invaluable to setting and advancing our collective agenda. The NATA Team extends our appreciation to those who joined us to walk the halls of Congress, meeting face-to-face with policymakers and telling our story.
On the heels of the Day on the Hill and Air Charter Summit, I was honored to join NATA member business Joby Aviation’s celebration as it received Special Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA for its first production-prototype eVTOL aircraft. It was exhilarating to witness history in the making as this certification allows the company to proceed to flight testing. NATA congratulates the team at Joby Aviation on this tremendous achievement and looks forward to further highlighting this pioneering company working to “change the way we move while reducing the acoustic and climate footprint of flight” in our next issue of the ABJ.
I also participated in the Department of Transportation’s Advanced Air Mobility Interagency Working Group (AAM IWG) Executive Roundtable the same week, where I shared AAM issues of critical importance to NATA’s membership as well as the Association’s recommendations for an AAM national strategy. The Roundtable, held at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, provided an important forum to highlight the work of NATA’s AAM Committee in helping to ensure a unified approach to the modernization of both infrastructure and operational frameworks. It was also a valuable opportunity to emphasize the critical importance of communication, collaboration, and cooperation between government partners and all aviation sector stakeholders in creating a healthy and vibrant AAM ecosystem. These discussions further demonstrate the interconnectedness of our member segments and our collective devotion to the limitlessness of aviation’s advancement.
Another area where we have demonstrated Partnership, Advocacy, Safety, and Leadership is as a stakeholder in the Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative. NATA is committed to progress through partnership in laying out a clear plan to transition piston-engine aircraft to lead-free aviation fuels by the end of 2030—or sooner if possible—without compromising the existing U.S. transportation infrastructure system, aviation safety, risk protections for airports and FBOs, or the economic and broader public benefits of general aviation.
NATA advocates for funding to accelerate required testing and regulatory approval for the implementation of an unleaded avgas, as well as investments in infrastructure to make alternative unleaded fuel more widely available while we await an unleaded fuel that meets the needs of the entire piston-aircraft fleet. The association opposes any efforts to ban 100LL before a safe, fleet authorization alternative is widely available and strongly supports fuel production tax incentives once that alternative is approved.
NATA understands that we must take creative steps now to minimize the use of leaded fuel in affected communities. To facilitate the use of current unleaded fuels, which can service a portion of the piston-aircraft fleet, the Association has demonstrated leadership in publishing a white paper educating fuel service providers on best practices for deploying multiple fuels at airports. In addition, NATA has updated its Safety 1st General Aviation Misfueling Prevention Program—a free, online training resource for pilots, line service professionals, and other aircraft refueling stakeholders—to address the risks associated with the introduction of an additional grade of fuel. The future trajectory of aviation fuels can be found in the “NextGen Fuels – Where Are They Now, Where Are They Going?” article in this issue.
This summer, NATA also welcomed 5 new bold and dedicated idea innovators to the our Board of Directors—each representing an established or emerging membership segment of the Association, including AAM:
- Travis Grimsley with Duncan Aviation
- Cristine Kirk with Malone Air Charter
- Mary Miller with Signature Flight Support
- Kathryn Purwin with Helinet
- Craig Teasdale with Ferrovial Vertiports
As the industry explores new ways to recruit talent, foster diversity, conduct business, and advance safety and sustainability, Travis, Cristine, Mary, Kathryn, and Craig will add increased depth to the wealth of perspectives leading the Association and its members to higher levels of excellence and achievement.
Finally, NATA has a lineup of focused events over next several months, but we especially look forward to seeing many of you in Long Beach for our November Aviation Business Conference, where we will all gather as a community to review the past year and discuss a path forward for 2024. And, as a Women in Aviation corporate member, NATA is pleased to host our first Girls in Aviation Day on November 3rd at the Long Beach Airport—a chance to highlight the vast opportunities aviation business offers the next generation. We appreciate all of those who have already pledged support for this inspiring event and encourage others to get involved.
We hope that our events and efforts leave you with the knowledge of the power of your voice, a sense of the community that your association provides, pride in what our industry has accomplished, and guidance and tools for continuous advancement. As our world constantly evolves, your Association is firmly focused on maintaining relevance, fostering growth, creating connections, and achieving a common mission—aviation business safety and success—bridging divides and bringing us ever closer.