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Business Air News Bulletin
Business Air News Bulletin
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
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NATA fights the corner of US Part 135 operators
Business aviation occupies a unique position to serve travellers while economies recover, and beyond. NATA is determined to ensure that its members get the best possible deals as the industry moves forward.

The US Department of Transportation has issued a final order on adjustments to service obligations, granting point exemptions to 15 Covered Carriers. As air carrier service at commercial airports slowly recovers, NATA believes general aviation remains uniquely able to provide access and connectivity to thousands of airports around the country.

The DOT issued a Show Cause Order on 22 May, tentatively granting point exemptions to the 15 carriers. Interested parties were given until 28 May to file comments or objections to the Department's tentative findings. Some of the comments noted the proposed exemptions would result in significant job losses, decreased access to transportation for or in support of medical treatment, interruptions for those using air service to commute to work or visit clients and reduced service for areas that depend upon tourism, as well as other detriments to the local and national economies.

According to the order, “The Department declines to modify our tentative findings with regard to Portland, Maine; Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; Rochester, Minnesota; and Palm Springs, California. Consistent with our commitment in the Notice, these points will continue to receive air service from other Covered Carriers, ensuring that they retain air service through at least 30 September 2020.”

NATA president and CEO Timothy Obitts responded: “The utility of general aviation services when faced by a shrinking airline footprint is not a new topic of conversation. However, lately, we are hearing that more and more communities are realising the vital benefits that general aviation businesses provide as a critical link to services, lifeline for medical response, tool to support and mobilise their workforce, and in some cases, a means to even grow their business during a pandemic.

“NATA represents over 3,400 aviation businesses, servicing the vast majority of airports throughout America. For the past 80 years, NATA has served to empower our members to be safe, secure and efficient, a mission we share with each and every one of them. As air service demand rebounds, general aviation businesses are uniquely positioned to quickly and efficiently assist in providing essential services that support and empower people, businesses, and communities nationwide.”

Meanwhile NATA, on behalf of its members conducting air carrier operations under Part 135, has requested rulemaking to expand the number of pilot line checks performed by operators, improving safety and decreasing demands on limited FAA resources. The association's petition, if adopted, would allow FAA-approved company check pilots to conduct the pilot line checks required throughout the certificate holder's fleet of aircraft that are of the same category and class. In addition, NATA requested the FAA provide guidance specifying the suggested content for the pilot line check.

“Although we previously filed a petition for exemption permitting the same authority for a limited duration due to COVID-19, we subsequently determined that the safety and efficiency gains afforded by this relief were beneficial enough to warrant a permanent change through a petition for rulemaking,” continues Obitts. “This amendment will result in long-term cost savings, safety improvement and efficiency gains for operators, as well as a positive impact for the FAA and, potentially, the environment.”

“Today, FAA inspectors conduct many pilot checks and are able to safely do so without being currently qualified in the aircraft. The FAA has also emphasised the importance of regulations stipulating that carriers conduct their own pilot checking rather than relying on FAA resources whenever feasible,” NATA vice president of regulatory affairs John McGraw explains. “The changes we propose are consistent with the regulatory mandate and, because FAA inspectors have already demonstrated these checks can be safely accomplished in the manner proposed by NATA, the safety standard is maintained.”

NATA notes additional benefits, such as lower FAA costs from decreased inspector travel for checks, increased time for inspectors to perform other oversight functions, and safety benefits from decreased operational exposures (due to fewer flights conducted specifically for checks).

Further, because these changes allow a reduction in the number of flights that are conducted solely for the purpose of performing the line check, the change could prove beneficial to the environment.

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