Heli-Expo 2011: Event’s First Forum of General Aviation CEOs Covers Industry’s Challenges

 - March 6, 2011, 10:30 AM

The Helicopter Association International held its first General Aviation Association CEO Forum at Heli-Expo yesterday, bringing together leaders of four major general aviation (GA) organizations in addition to HAI.

“We all share the same airspace and share the same problems,” HAI president Matthew Zuccaro said in introducing the panelists: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association CEO Craig Fuller, General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce, Steve Brown, senior vice president of operations and administration at the National Business Aviation Association, and Randall Burdette, chairman of the National Association of State Aviation Officials. Each of the four spoke about current issues and initiatives affecting all GA interests.

Fuller, noting that some 15,000 members of AOPA are helicopter pilots, said, “The helicopter community should be proud that when we talk about the advantages and use of ADS-B out and in, we point to the Gulf [of Mexico] as an area that didn’t have it, and transformed it, and we can now operate in it with positive control.”

Bunce warned that coming budget reductions would likely leave the FAA without sufficient funds to fulfill its mandate, but provide an opportunity to “change the paradigm. We have to streamline the FAA, take this moment in time to make the FAA serve the industry, and not do things like rulemaking by interpretation. It’s time for industry to say enough is enough,” Bunce continued, noting how FAA FSDOs operate as independent fiefdoms, creating inconsistent standards. “We call that rulemaking by interpretation. When regulators can change rules on their own and call it policy, then it affects industry absolutely catastrophically.”

NBAA’s Brown focused on the DOT’s recent rule proposal that would eliminate the aircraft registry program that has allowed aircraft to preserve their privacy and prevent travel information from being publically available. 

“For those few people who need privacy to preserve competitiveness or for security or who are involved in [business] negotiations, it’s an important capability to have,” Brown said, asking attendees to use the link on the NBAA’s Web site to register comments on the NPRM. “We could use help on this in the next 28 days.”

Burdette noted the state aviation agencies that comprise NASAO’s membership have reported increased community zoning efforts that attempt to restrict helicopter operations. In response, NASAO is preparing a draft zoning ordinance that addresses safety issues and ensures fair and reasonable access for helicopter operations. 

A question-and-answer session following the comments raised issues ranging from proposed reexamination of the airspace around New York City to industry response to the potential impact of new broadband wireless networks on GPS operability.

Whatever the challenges ahead, as Zuccaro said in concluding the forum, “Our combined support really gives us much more collective power in influencing what goes on. This coalition, this alliance, is the only way to go.”