NBAA regional forum series packs them in at Fort Worth

 - May 8, 2008, 10:27 AM

Flush with the success of the forum and static display held at Chicago DuPage Airport (DPA) in June, NBAA held another such event last month at Fort Worth (Texas) Meacham International Airport (FTW). The terminal there was transformed into a mini convention center, and an estimated 1,500 people attended the one-day event’s forums and training meetings. The wares of more than 50 exhibitors and 27 new and refurbished business aircraft were also on display for the scrutiny of attendees.

One rationale for the regional meetings, NBAA president Jack Olcott told AIN, was as a means to provide information on a local level about the value of business aviation. Several attendees at a “Benefits of a Business Airplane” forum led by Olcott indicated they were there to learn more about the possibilities of setting up corporate flight departments within their companies.

“We surveyed our membership and found 75 percent are flying the same or more than a year ago,” Olcott told the audience. “There’s a difference between a capital purchase and using capital you have.”

He said that an analysis of 11 member companies over a four-month period showed they saved nearly 6,000 hr of travel using a company airplane, and that translated to more than 1,500 business days and 2,460 nights away from home saved.

Barry Gray of TAG Aviation addressed choices among full or fractional ownership and charter available to business operators, and AIN managing director Wilson Leach said today’s aircraft market is off substantially from its high of just two years ago. “There
are remarkable values across the board, making it advantageous for anyone wanting to buy a business airplane,” he told potential customers. “It’s a real buyer’s market.”

“Business aviation is a highly specific, technically driven field,” added Olcott. “Aircraft continue to operate safely even if they’re 30 years old because wear items are replaceable. But there is regulatory obsolescence. You might well find that while an airplane may fly safely, it may not meet the new regulatory requirements. You want to make sure when you go into it that you have good, strong technical advice.”

Other forums on the business of business aviation included a session on Texas aviation tax issues, in particular an ongoing program under which out-of-state operators can be assessed for operating aircraft at Texas airports. The discussion was led by NBAA staffer Greg Jackson and paneled by Joanne Barbera of Cooling & Herbers; Ed Kliewer of Kliewer, Breen, Garatoni, Patterson & Malone; and Kent Jackson of Jackson & Wade.

Greg Jackson also moderated “The Realities of Corporate Aviation Insurance,” with panelists Stuart Hope of Hope Aviation Insurance; Jim Hannon of Global Aerospace; Howard Hamilton of Aero Insurance; and Susan McKeon of Cooling & Herbers. This session brought operators up to date on
hold-harmless agreements, single-pilot operations, alternative-use agreements and obtaining preferred terms.

“The stock market is not helping with return on investment in the insurance business,” noted NBAA’s Jackson. “So aviation is having to carry its own weight. FBO insurance costs are climbing, but they can get a break with the hold-harmless agreement. On the other hand, an operator does not want to sign away his rights. We have members on both sides of the question.”

Additional forum subjects included “Managing Change in Today’s Corporate Flight Department,” led by Sheryl Barden of Aviation Personnel International, and “Communicating with Senior Management,” moderated by Phil Roberts of Par Travel Tech.

Security and Technical

Another reason for the decentralized meetings is the need for ongoing updates of security and regulatory information since Sep- tember 11. “Terrorists have to get it right only once,” observed Mike Restovich, the TSA federal security director at Dallas Love Field, who gave a presentation on aviation security. “But we have to get it right every time.”

He reviewed the purpose and organization of the security agency and its effect on business aviation to a large gathering. “Our mission statement is to protect the nation’s transportation systems, to ensure freedom of movement of people and commerce–and whatever we do, it cannot affect commerce,” Restovich said.

After 1.3 million applicants were processed, he said, 32,000 passenger screeners and 22,000 baggage screeners were hired, trained and deployed at 429 airports within months. And, he added, the TSA began paying for contract screeners last February.

“So when you hear the president of American Airlines talking about the $2.50 [passenger] surcharge that will take them down,” he noted, “remember that it’s not them paying the hundreds of millions of dollars for screeners.”

Technical forums on pilot and maintenance training included a demonstration of upset recovery techniques by Don Wylie of Aviation Safety Training. Bombardier presented a seminar on avionics mandates; Duncan Aviation conducted aging aircraft maintenance and TFE731 troubleshooting sessions; and Mark Josel, M.D., moderated “Your Medical, Your License and Your Job.”