FAA Ducking the Heat at NBAA
At NBAA the aviation-versus-government stakes were high. Guess who stayed home in Washington instead of facing the public?
By Robert Goyer / Published: Oct 22, 2013
Shortly before this year's NBAA Convention, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta phoned Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), to tell him he'd be a no show for his planned appearance to discuss with the attendees at the show the FAA's current sorry state of affairs. Whether Huerta was ducking the fire by staying in D.C. or really had to stay home to get the agency's house in order is a question that I can't answer. It's not a great public relations move regardless.
On top of that, we've just learned that the rest of the FAA leadership team (insert your oxymoron joke here) originally slated to be at NBAA is MIA, reportedly under orders not to show. We've emailed for comment and are not holding our breath for a reply.
Administrator Huerta should know that there's a great deal of unhappiness in the aviation world, especially the business aviation world, about the FAA's shutdown of the aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, which cost aviation businesses millions of dollars at a time of year when aircraft sales are traditionally at their peak.
It's unlikely that Huerta made the call on what parts of his organization got shut down and which ones stayed up and running during the two-week-long partial shutdown (which seems a little like describing a heart attack as a partial cardiac shutdown). He likely just had to do the administration's bidding. It's not a job I envy, but it's a job that he accepted and that comes with obligations he needs to fulfill.
As you hopefully know, NBAA's members are companies that use business aircraft, mostly turbine-powered aircraft, to do business. In this case, that means going places, doing deals, keeping their operations running smoothly, and generally looking to get a competitive edge. This is indeed how it works. Numerous studies by NBAA have shown that companies that use business aviation significantly outperform their competitors who are stuck on the ground and with the airlines. Understandably, these companies want to keep their flying operations running smoothly And for that they need the services that the FAA both mandates and supplies.
To state the obvious, this means that members need their organization NBAA to work hard to get the FAA and government in general to act reasonably. Mind me, NBAA is not trying to get the government to bend to its will, just to do what's smart for business and the American people.
Unfortunately, in this case, Administrator Huerta can't do much to keep GA happy. He's stuck with a political battle between multiple factions within Congress and an administration that needs to cut funding, to look for new sources of revenue, and to divvy out punishment to its foes. He could have and should have come to NBAA anyway, if only to get an ear full from a thousand dissatisfied citizen customers.
This little, vocal and important segment of the American public wants their voice to be heard and the message is this: Stop the nonsense and let's get back to work.
Unfortunately, there's little optimism that this will happen. With another partial shutdown threatened and little room for compromise in sight, we're looking at the prospects of tough times ahead while Washington tries to get its sorry act together.
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