It’s time to ‘vote’ on the fractional NPRM

 - November 27, 2007, 6:26 AM

Democracy is messy. We Americans know this all too well, but we accept it as better than the alternatives.

The cornerstone of the democratic process is compromise. Compromise, of course, does not always produce the best results and, in fact, sometimes produces really bad results. But at the very least, compromise does produce a result. The result may not make everyone equally happy, or unhappy, but most of the time it is better than the status quo and gets things moving.

Perhaps the greatest example of compromise in U.S. history is our own Constitution. Although far from perfect when signed by the Framers on Sept. 17, 1787 (it did not contain a Bill of Rights, gave only white males the vote, counted each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation in the House–Native Americans being excluded altogether from the tally–and extended the slave trade for another 20 years), the Constitution held the tenuously United States together with a stronger federal government than that provided by the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution’s 27 amendments attest to both its need for change over time as well as the efficacy of the document itself in providing a mechanism for change.

Fast-forward 214 years to July 18, 2001, the day the FAA released another compromise: the proposed rule on fractional aircraft ownership programs and on-demand operations. Although obviously not in the same league as the Constitution, this rule holds tremendous importance for the future of business aviation in a great many ways.

In its entirety, the fractional notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is very close to the recommendations submitted to the FAA by the Fractional Ownership Aviation Rulemaking Committee (FOARC) on February 23 last year. NBAA participated in the FOARC along with representatives from other industry groups, including corporate flight departments. The NPRM creates new regulations for fractional-ownership aircraft operations (FAR Part 91 Subpart K), updates regulations for Part 135 certificate holders and amends other related regulations.

As AIN reported last month, the NPRM re-ignited concerns among some corporate flight departments about the regulation of fractional operations. In this issue (see page 4), Paul Lowe reports further on the issues raised by NBAA’s members.
Like the U.S. Constitution, the fractional NPRM is most certainly not perfect in its present form and will not make all parties equally happy.

But, as anyone who has been following business aviation for the last decade knows, current regulations do not now adequately address fractional aircraft operations and associated issues. New regulation is needed.

With the announced intention of UAL Corp. and other airlines to enter business aviation, the NPRM was released none too soon.

For those with concerns about the NPRM, the good news is the democratic process is not yet over. As it does with all NPRMs, the FAA is seeking public comment on the fractional-ownership proposal (the NPRM is on the Web at www.faa.gov/avr/arm/071801.htm).

Send written comments in duplicate to Document Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room Plaza 401, 400 Seventh Street SW, Washington, DC 20590-0001, Attn: Docket Number FAA-1001-10047. Send electronic comments to dms.dot.gov. The deadline is October 16.
Now is the time to make your voice heard.