Jill Hilgenberg, marketing v-p for Cygnus Business Media, has had to learn a long list of aviation vocabulary in a short time. She was handed the responsibility for pulling off this year’s Aviation Services and Suppliers Supershow (AS3) combined with the airline Ground Support Equipment (GSE) International Expo. Her company acquired the rights to both shows within a few months of each other last year, and decided to combine the trade-show portions in Las Vegas. The brain trust at Cygnus reckoned there was enough synergy to bring all the exhibitors and attendees under one huge roof at the Las Vegas Convention Center May 12
to 16. The combined GSE/NATA/ PAMA event this year attracted just under 5,000 attendees and 450 exhibitors, compared with 3,000 and 300, respectively, at last year’s NATA/ PAMA gathering in Indianapolis.
AS3 was already a cooperative venture between the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). The two trade groups combined their trade shows a few years ago to form AS3, while maintaining concurrent but separate annual conventions. That arrangement continues even with the addition of the GSE show, which roughly doubles the number of exhibitors. For those exhibitors who used to attend both trade shows, the new arrangement represents a significant saving in time and money.
NATA: The View Backward
In his address as outgoing NATA chairman, Gary Driggers, vice chairman of Midcoast Aviation, told attendees last year was likely the most tumultuous year in general aviation history. NATA responded, he said, with innovation and vision. Among its accomplishments were:
• Establishing the air-cargo subcommittee.
• Establishing an airline services council.
• Re-examining its committee system to concentrate on grass-roots core concerns.
• Continuing to pursue Safety First as a means of lowering insurance liability. Driggers said the process of quantifying results is in process, but indicates losses have been reduced by as much as 50 percent.
• The ongoing NATA security compliance program was accepted by the TSA as a means of completing fingerprint and criminal history record checks (CHRCs).
• Sold the AS3 show to Cygnus
Driggers said the best memory he will carry with him of his tenure as NATA chairman is the resilience of the general aviation industry under remarkable circumstances.
Among the most anxiously anticipated guest speakers, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security, was unable to come to AS3/GSE due to the disaster drills under way in Seattle that week. He recorded a videotaped address for the convention, but the message carried little in the way of answers for the NATA membership. In his place, Jim Blair, the Las Vegas-area federal security director for the TSA, spoke about his agency’s efforts to include general aviation in its mandate. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force and FAA (in air traffic control), Blair most recently consulted to the casino industry on security surveillance systems.
While acknowledging that the Department of Homeland Security had a monumental task in trying to integrate 22 different agencies–including the TSA–in a short time, Blair postulated that it was vital that the government “cannot afford to lose common sense. We no longer confiscate nail clippers and corkscrews, for instance.” He said that level of logic must be maintained as security agencies move on to considerations for general aviation.
He warned, however, “Probably, when we get security directives on general aviation, we’ll err on the side of security. But neither you nor I can afford a security lapse in general aviation.
Trying To Lower Insurance Costs
At a session titled “Managing the Aviation Risk–Can Anything Improve Insurance Costs?” NetJets v-p of logistics George Ball discussed ramp accidents, how expensive they can be and what can be done to lower the risk. He was joined on the panel by Vic D’Avanzo, senior v-p at insurance company USAIG. Also on the panel was NATA staffer Amy Koranda, responsible for development and administration of the Safety First program. Ball said, “If you have questions about Safety First, track down Amy Koranda. You can’t miss her. She’s the head of red hair going 100 miles an hour.”
Ball presented a series of photo slides that would make any insurance adjuster turn pale. They showed crumpled wingtips and leading edges, torn surface skins and ramp tugs, trucks and other vehicles embedded in airframes. In one photo, a Challenger sat precariously on the tarmac, its left main gear lodged in a drain hole after the $10 pig-iron grate failed. The pictures got attendees’ attention, and D’Avanzo’s follow-up presentation defined some of the costs.
D’Avanzo further outlined the plight of aviation insurance underwriters, saying that last year they paid out $1.50 for every dollar they took in. That was an improvement over the previous year, in which they paid out $3 for every dollar of income. He urged aircraft operators to “partner with the FBO,” meaning pilots should help tug drivers by riding the brakes in the cockpit during aircraft movements, for instance. He also suggested crews carry laminated cards with towing instructions for line crews who will be moving the aircraft.
Ball joined D’Avanzo in recommending other methods of improving ramp safety. One suggestion was to ensure that all parked aircraft be surrounded by orange traffic cones. They pointed out that a wing is very narrow and just about invisible when viewed from the front, especially in rain, snow or fog. To punctuate the point, the presentation included a picture of the crumpled cab of a linen truck that ran into the wing of a parked jet at 40 miles per hour one foggy morning, nearly decapitating the truck driver and substantially damaging the airplane.
Among the technological solutions to ramp mishaps are computer programs for helping to stack aircraft in a hangar, which was being demonstrated at AS3, and a set of marshalling wands that include a button with a small transmitter that can send a signal to a tug triggering a loud alarm. Innovative Signaling of Snellville, Ga., maintains that many accidents occur when wingwalkers are not able to get the attention of tug drivers fast enough to avert an accident. The wand-mounted transmitters can also trigger a flashing beacon light mounted prominently on the ramp.
An even lower-tech example was that of the line supervisor who came to work one day directly from his son’s soccer game. He had his coach’s whistle still around his neck and used it to good effect to get the attention of his line crews.
New Board Members
At the annual meeting of members, the following board members were elected:
Sally Leible, president of Airport Terminal Services, St. Louis, Mo., and Jake Cartwright, president and CEO of TAG Aviation USA, San Francisco. Greg Arnold, president of the TAC Air FBO chain, was installed as the new chairman after serving last year as vice chairman. Leaving the board after serving their terms were Gary Driggers, vice chairman of Midcoast Aviation; Ray Fitzgerald, former president of Atlantic Aviation; and Bill Haberstock, CEO of Million Air, Salt Lake City.
For PAMA, it’s been a year of belt tightening and improving safety, efficiency and learning
Brian Finnegan, president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, told members attending the annual business meeting. “These are tough times. We offer members a large exhibit hall; the opportunity to connect with the organization, other members and suppliers; and more than 150 hours of technical sessions, most of which count toward IA renewal.” This year, training seminars were as diverse as technical sessions such as “Fuel Cell Maintenance;” regulatory-related sessions such as “What Makes Up an Aircraft Inspection Program?;” and administrative seminars exemplified by “How Companies Can Reduce Their Healthcare Costs.”
The past year has been a financially difficult one for PAMA and has required the board to make some difficult decisions. The single most controversial has been raising the regular and associate member dues from $35 to $70 per year and the corporate dues from $325 to $650 per year. Finnegan pointed out that the new dues structure fundamentally eliminated the need for local chapters to charge their own dues because PAMA returns $15 to the chapter for each local member. “In reality, since many chapters were charging dues of approximately $20, the actual increase in membership dues is about $15 for most members,” Finnegan pointed out. However, he admitted that the increase was more significant for members who belonged to chapters that did not have local dues.
As part of the organization’s effort to refocus on its chapters, Finnegan said over his three years as president he has visited most of the chapters and fully intends to continue doing so. He also said, “My metric for PAMA is, ‘How can we make the chapter network stronger and better?’ To that end, we also initiated ‘Jet Blast,’ a twice-monthly e-mail that informs members what we are doing at the national level and helps them connect with one another.”
In its second year, the PAMA Aviation Maintenance Olympics drew 18 of the industry’s top technicians in six teams to compete in the two-day event. Events included safety wiring, hardware identification, hydraulic line fabrication, electrical connectors, rigging, ATP’s data research and FlightSafety’s troubleshooting.
And the Winner is…
This year’s first-place trophy went to Delta Tech Ops’ “Maintenance Craftsmen of Orlando.” The second-place slot was filled by Midcoast Aviation’s “Arch Rivals.” This year’s Olympics saw the first all-woman team–the “A Team” was fielded by the Association for Women in Aircraft Maintenance (AWAM). Other teams included Dassault Falcon Jet’s “Team Falcon,” Bombardier’s “Hot Wrenches” and the “Trouble Trackers” from Million Air.
The luncheon attracted a crowd of more than 200 people for the annual awards ceremony and to hear keynote speaker James Ballough, the FAA’s top mechanic and director of flight standards. Ballough oversees more than 4,800 employees responsible for promoting the safety of flight for civil aircraft by setting regulations and standards. His speech, “Our 100 years of professional aviation maintenance,” cited the heroes who have helped keep aircraft safe and operational.
Dave Benoff of the Aircraft Maintenance Society explained that there is currently no national system for recording, monitoring, testing and then certifying post-license aviation maintenance training. He also noted there isn’t even a national standardized system that differentiates mechanics by their professional knowledge and experience.
The AMS Standards Program provides technicians with recognition for advanced training and experience. AMS maintains a database of training received and oversees testing to confirm participants’ achievements. There are four group designations, including student aviation maintenance technician, apprentice aviation maintenance technician, professional aviation maintenance technician and master aviation maintenance technician. Each group specifies documentable, minimum training, practical experience and other criteria to qualify.