CBAA reports program success at convention

 - October 12, 2006, 9:51 AM

Private Canadian operators of turbine-powered aircraft are experiencing a reduction in individual certification delays, the result of a Transport Canada agreement with the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA), announced association president and CEO Rich Gage at the 42nd annual CBAA convention in Toronto. Gage described the association’s private operator certificate (POC) program as an “exceptional success.”

Transport Canada (TC) in January last year granted CBAA the authority to approve the individual operating certificates required for private Canadian-registered passenger-carrying, pressurized turbine airplanes with an mtow of more than 12,500 pounds. Certification also includes assessing the acceptability of an operator’s safety management system, with the approval process delegated to TC- and CBAA-authorized private auditors across the country. The concept grew from certification delays in the past due to shortages of TC inspectors. Gage reported that to date, 166 of nearly 200 operating members had been approved under the POC process, exceeding the association’s estimate by 20 percent.

Also at the convention, CBAA reported an increase in membership, from 165 in 2003 to 275 today. As a result, the association has initiated a review of its governance model and expects a new mission statement and strategic plan for the future. The association also expects to strengthen many of the board of directors’ functions and responsibilities and to reinforce links with members and regional chapters. On the financial side, Gage reported that the association had met or exceeded its goals and had already passed the reserve fund target for 2004.

Tightening Security

Gage described aviation security as “a major growth industry,” noting that it has occupied increasing amounts of CBAA staff time. He added, however, that it was “premature to report a great deal of success” at the various local, provincial and state levels CBAA and other organizations had approached regarding the relative risk faced by business aviation. (On the convention floor later, one Challenger captain was more outspoken, stating that “there’s only an infinitesimal chance that any doubtful characters could get aboard a corporate aircraft compared to an airline jet, yet we are regarded with a lot more suspicion.”) A security panel echoed the view of both Gage and the Challenger pilot and added that things are not likely to get any easier in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless–and perhaps even because of tighter security–corporate airplane sales in Canada are increasing again, following the post-9/11 slowdown. Typical of these was Calgary-based Avia Aviation’s purchase earlier this year of five Piaggio Avantis.

Reflecting both the optimism of increasing airframe sales and the cautions stemming from 9/11, Bob Blouin, NBAA senior v-p of operations, addressed convention attendees on “Taking Care of Business Aviation.” Blouin summed up the opportunities and threats facing business aviation with the acronym SWOT, for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths comprised the positive level of airframe and fuel sales and the impressive 30-percent increase in international flights. Weaknesses lay in the inconsistent standards applied to business aviation in the areas of safety, security, fees, environment and access.

Opportunities lay in the business aviation community’s standing together to promote safety standards, harmonizing security, identifying and contesting fees and ameliorating noise and emissions. Threats were the risks of operators becoming disconnected from local and regional groups as well as from regulators and legislators, not staying abreast of environmental issues, and not being adequately recognized as significant airspace users in future air traffic management plans.

Overall, Blouin said the indications were positive, citing the growing importance of the NBAA and CBAA conventions, and the encouraging responses to the EBACE, LABACE and pre-ABACE conventions in Europe, South America and Asia.

Other presentations at the convention included a discussion on the coming introduction of very light jets (VLJs) that, according to CBAA director of technical services Bill Boucher, offered the association “a unique opportunity to make it right from the start.” Boucher felt that CBAA’s specialized experience and understanding of the operations of private, advanced-design aircraft placed it in a singular position to offer expert guidance to the regulators, the training and insurance industries and other organizations.

Several attendees stated they had heard that a number of prominent Canadian firms were considering incorporating VLJs in their future fleets, but no firm announcements were made at the convention. Additional presentations covered maintaining medical fitness, flight test technology, synthetic vision avionics, Canadian Customs rules, specific airframe seminars and workshops for the association’s POC auditors.

The convention’s static aircraft display broke with tradition this year. With unsettled weather outside, attendees were able to inspect aircraft in the comfort of two very large hangars, into which were squeezed 26 airplanes and helicopters, from a Global Express and a brace of Falcons down to a Cirrus SR22 and a highly instrumented Cessna Skylane. The hardest cockpit to get into was in the Dassault corner, where the company’s EASy flight deck drew an impressive stream of visitors.