The subjects of security and international operations continue to dominate the annual NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference, and both seminar sessions on those topics played to packed rooms at the 15th annual conference last month in Savannah, Ga.
As at the two previous S&D conferences since 9/11, an emphasis was placed on restrictions that have stemmed from the terrorist attacks of that day, and the tendency of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ignore the fact that 70 percent of all aircraft operations in the U.S. are general aviation in nature.
An NBAA security protocol successfully tested at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport last year resulted in the approval of the TSA Access Certificate (TSAAC), which will allow an operator a blanket waiver and TFR access privileges. Despite the success, business aviation operators, said AT&T aviation director Douglas Schwartz, have been remarkably ambivalent about the opportunity. He noted that little more than 30 TSAAC applications have been filed, and of those, only 20 were from corporate flight departments. When he asked for a show of hands of those schedulers and dispatchers whose companies had received a TSAAC, one lone hand was raised.
Lon Siro, manager of the 12/5 program and private charter for the TSA, admitted that the only advantage afforded by TSAAC is that of overflight. However, he warned, government authorities were likely to interpret this lack of response as an anemic interest and might be less inclined to make additional exceptions for business aviation.
He also pointed out that while TSAAC is a program available only to Part 91 operators, it applies as well to any Part 91 operation conducted by Part 135 certificate holders.
Business aviation operators, the panel advised, would do well to stay atop local and state security requirements, such as the requirement for the double-locking of all general aviation aircraft parked at New Jersey airports.
Authorities, said the panel, have also noted that the competitive aspect of the FBO business has led some ground handlers to employ looser security measures in an effort to gain a market advantage. The panel emphasized a need at ground facilities for continued vigilance and such measures as “badging,” challenging unescorted visitors, controlling ramp access, improving lighting and emergency response procedures, as well as increased security training.
Referring to the continued interest by terrorists in using civilian aircraft as flying bombs, Siro noted, “The bigger the airplane, the bigger the ‘boom,’ and some of you out there are operating some pretty big airplanes.”
The two sessions on international operations drew more than 120 attendees as Air Training International president Dave Stohr discussed everything from overflight permits and passports to health requirements and aircraft equipage.
The biggest issues facing international operators today, he said, are the changes that seem to occur with increasing frequency. Among those this year are two affecting flights on North Atlantic routes. The strategic lateral offset procedures will give pilots the option of flying two miles to the right or left of the flight tracks. “At this point, aircraft crossing the Atlantic are flying nose-to-tail because navigation technology is so much more accurate. The lateral offset procedures will create a little more separation.” There will also be a change to the 30-mile contingency lateral offset rule, reducing that distance to 20 miles. And in Europe precision Rnav and RNP goes into effect. For schedulers and dispatchers, these changes might mean rethinking their own decisions, from how much fuel will be required to whether or not an airplane is equipped to meet new regulations.
He emphasized that, as the old adage goes, the devil is truly in the details. For example, he explained, you may call and confirm that a ground handler has single-point refueling, only to discover later that it was a one-inch hose rather than a three-inch hose. Several days after the show, Stohr said he received a photograph he would have liked to include in the presentation. It showed a turbine engine mounted on a truck bed being used as an aircraft de-icing machine at a Russian airport. “It isn’t merely a matter of capability, but capacity and suitability.”
Stohr said he views the two-hour sessions as refresher training for schedulers and dispatchers. But he added that this year he was surprised when he asked for a show of those attending for the first time; about half of those present raised a hand.
Stohr had presented similar, but much more detailed, information at the eight-hour Schedulers Professional Development Program on Sunday before the official opening of the show. Eighty-five attendees were at the SPDP course, which Stohr said provides a much more detailed look at what is going on behind the scenes in international operations, from rules and regulations to overflight permits. While the SPDP course does provide some professional validation of the job, completion of the syllabus does not carry with it an official recognition of the skills acquired, something Stohr believes is lacking.
In addition to security and international operations, attendees had a variety of breakout sessions geared to individuals needs. Among them were fundamentals of flight, beginning scheduling, aviation law and insurance, managing conflicts, qualifying your caterer and travel health, as well as nine aviation software user workshops.
Shelley Longmuir marked her sixth month as NBAA president and CEO with an appearance at the conference, emphasizing that it is “clearly a key professional and networking event.”
A highlight of the convention was the presentation of 2004 Schedulers & Dispatchers Scholarship awards with a total value of $30,000. Among the winners was, for the first time, a native of the People’s Republic of China–Zhang Zheng of Shanghai Airlines.
The 2004 scholarship program sponsors were Air BP Aviation Services, Atlantic Aviation, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil Avitat, Signature Flight Support and Universal Weather. Each contributed $5,000 toward the scholarship fund.
Edsel B. Ford II, chairman and CEO of Pentastar Aviation, great-grandson of Henry Ford, was the featured speaker. As proof of his enthusiasm for the convention, he explained that he, of Henry Ford blood, had actually skipped the opening of the annual auto show in Detroit to come to Savannah.
An unabashed believer in business aviation, Ford told the audience that he had gone to the “first flight” ceremonies at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in December, and that most of those attending had taken the airlines into Raleigh-Durham International Airport and driven by car about 4.5 hours to Kitty Hawk to view the reenactment of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Coming from Detroit, as he was, this would have required an overnight stay in the area, and the entire event would have consumed about 24 hours. “On one of our Pentastar jets, I flew directly into Dare County Regional Airport, six miles from Kitty Hawk. So I could have breakfast with my family and listen to my son Albert’s concerns about a pending math test, then catch a comfortable flight [to within a few miles of Kitty Hawk] with enough time in the air to catch up on correspondence, a couple of hours on the ground before the event and was home in Detroit in time for supper.”
To the apparent delight of listeners, Ford also made note of the increasing security at airports. He recalled the comment of a friend, who said, “Every time I go through an airport [security] check-in and am asked to remove my shoes, I’m grateful that Richard Reid isn’t remembered as the underwear bomber.”
The first schedulers and dispatchers conference sponsored by NBAA was held in Montvale, N.J. There were no exhibitors, and the 68 attendees would have barely filled the party room at a restaurant.
This year, the size of the show dictated for the first time a convention-center venue and drew a record 1,450 registered attendees and a record 238 exhibitors. Next year’s show will be in Reno, Nev., from February 14 to 16, tentatively at the Hilton Hotel.