Leading Edge: New NBAA chair selects security as priority

 - May 29, 2008, 10:07 AM

Tell us about the new security committee.

It is basically a combination of the Corporate Aviation Management Committee and the Safety Committee, getting together and developing a security protocol.

What direction is the board taking?

We want to utilize the security section of the current and revised “Corporate Aviation Management Guide” with its suggestions of things that operators should do to instill a culture of safety and security in their organization.

A lot of them are simple things. When you’re out on the ramp, if you are not at your airplane, it’s locked. You identify every person who gets on the airplane.

If you are flying the chairman–you’ve known him for years–that’s one thing. But
in our case, we’ve got shuttle operations where we have a manifest, and we request company identification for everybody getting on that airplane.

It is very simple to do and no cost is incurred or anything else. But it ensures that you have the people you are supposed to have on that airplane. No unaccompanied baggage is to arrive at the airplane, so you are not taking anything on that airplane that you don’t know about. Those are the simple things you should be doing all the time.

I’m a little concerned that in some places out on the ramp you still see business as usual–people walking away from their airplanes and they’re wide open, stuff like that. That’s missing the point.

What we are trying to do is to get out to the membership by numerous means–by the seminars, by the workshops, by AirMail [NBAA’s online chat forum], by fax–that it is critically important that security needs to be everyone’s concern out there.

What else are you doing?

For the first time, we came to the realization that even though we’ve done a tremendous amount of lobbying to Congress, the FAA and the Department of Transportation– all good efforts–September 11 took us back to ground level.

We had to educate an entirely different constituency–and that constituency was the security arena–on what business aviation is, that it is not a threat, how we can prove that it is not a threat, and what do they need us to do to make them feel good that we are secure and can operate in the same airspace as the commercial airlines, so that we can prevent any recurrence of what happened–where we were just shut out.
Do you see anything else on the horizon that the board might do?

Absolutely. We are in an evolution process, in a learning process, like everybody else. It is my understanding that the security issue has been broken in two–Homeland Security is responsible for domestic [threats] and the National Security Council is responsible for international [threats].

So now we have two constituencies we have to educate, and we are having better luck right now with Homeland Security. But it’s a program where we can educate those folks on what we are. We can pass on to the members what we learn. If they comply with the procedures they will have access, and if they don’t they won’t.

So this will serve as a wake-up call?

I think we all suffered from a tremendous amount of complacency over the years. You are exactly right. A wake-up call like a two-by-four to the head.

Last summer the board approved several NBAA issues, one of which was airport access. What was the reason for this?

We’ve seen many more challenges recently on airport access, and they seem to be proliferating here in Westchester County and out on [Long Island] and other places. We wanted to reaffirm that we have a policy against this and are fighting it as much as possible.

These towns take it upon themselves to become more and more restrictive, and if the FAA allows it, that’s going to significantly and negatively affect business aviation. Look at the helicopter side of the house in New York City and all of the heliports that they’ve closed [before September 11].

I think of Bell and the new 609 [tiltrotor]. It looks like an outstanding machine, but where is it going to go if there are no heliports or places that will allow it to take off and land? If you are just going to go from airport to airport, the tiltrotor’s capabilities don’t do you a whole lot of good.

It has been about a year since the Basics (Business Aviation Seminar for Information, Concepts and Solutions) began to assist smaller flight departments. How is it doing?

It is still obviously in the developmental stage, but I think it’s got great potential. A large proportion of our membership are really just one-airplane operators and tightly constricted on the number of people in the organization and on their ability to go to the NBAA [convention] or the courses.

Obviously Basics is an attempt on the board’s part to try and reach out to those folks and provide them with as much information as possible, so they can better manage their flight departments. We have had great hopes for it, maybe trying to use technology and long-distance learning rather than having people on site.

What was the impetus behind the new business aviation certification program?

We’ve always had an issue with PDP [professional development program]. What does it culminate in? The whole point is professional development for the flight department manager–whether that be the pilot manager, the maintenance manager, scheduling, dispatch or whatever–to try to give him or her the tools to enable them to do their job better.

But what do they get out of it at the end? We wanted something to bring closure, where there is some type of certification–modeled along the American Association of Airport Executives airport managers certificate or a CPA–that someone, especially within the individual’s company, can say, “Hey, this individual has achieved this and been certified.” At least it shows that they have taken advantage of this educational process and have benefitted from it.

The Regional Effort to Advise, Communicate and Help the Business Aviation Community (Reachbac) is a mature program. How is it doing?

It’s been working out exceptionally. The Reachbac program, in addition to the regional rep program that we’ve got going now, and a new program that’s coming on with a committee of representation from regional aviation units–where we’ve gotten grassroots membership in local geographic areas and now have representation with NBAA–allows us to pinpoint the concerns of the membership and to take an action plan to help solve them.

It has been excellent, particularly on the noise issues at Van Nuys and here in Westchester, to get the grassroots feeling from the folks. It allows us to keep really in touch and not get, as Jack calls it, the Beltway syndrome–concentrating on what is going on inside the Beltway.

How will United Airlines’ entry into fractional ownership affect NBAA?

Now you have validation by the airlines that business aviation is a viable entity in the aviation infrastructure. By going into business with the fractionals, charter and the [corporate] shuttles, United realizes there is a potential market there that it wants to exploit.

The pie, the number of airplanes and operators out there, is growing. Before the fractionals, it was stagnant.

The only thing that isn’t growing is the resource pool for qualified maintenance technicians and pilots, which is becoming a significant issue. Where are all of these people going to come from?

If United’s fractional program is further validating business aviation, do you think some of its customers may be inclined to join NBAA?

Absolutely. Just as with the fractionals, as with NetJets and Flexjet, a fractional owner can be a member of NBAA. The fractional providers are already members of NBAA as associate members, not corporate members or business members. United would have that option if it wanted to. That’s a marketplace that we want to look at as far as trying to promote the vision, mission and values of business aviation. We want to be the effective force for enhancing the safety, efficiency and acceptance of business aviation.

What would you like to see accomplished during your two-year term as chairman?

Certainly I want to continue Phil Roberts’ programs on safety and enhancing safety in the industry. We really want to concentrate on giving back to the membership, providing membership the tools (through the Basics programs and other programs) to allow them to manage their operation better. Also we want to work with the OEMs in both maintenance training and future aircraft design, to contribute to a better product.

One of the things NBAA is really getting involved with is: where are we going to get all of these people? They’re no longer coming out of the military. It’s getting to a situation almost like Europe’s: for decades, they have been taking kids out of college or technical school and training them from scratch, developing them and then sticking them in the right seat of a DC-9 or 737.

We’ve got to come up with some kind of methodology, to have some kind of interim area, where we can help these kids. That’s one of the focuses that we have, with the AvKids and PDP programs. There’s a whole bundle of those types of programs that we’re concentrating on, trying to increase the pool of qualified applicants, starting in grade school, getting people involved and interested in aviation.