It was a full morning at the auditorium of Building 1 at White Plains Airport (HPN), the same room where the TSA held its first LASP "listening session." TSA left in shock at the depth of anger combined with the intelligent nature of the audience response.
Well, the audience that packed the same room yesterday was just as intelligent when it came in, and left the room even smarter after a series of intensely detailed expert briefings addressing significant issues facing business aviation operations, locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
BCA Executive Editor Jessica Salerno and I went to the briefing organized by the Westchester Aviation Association with financial and logistics support from Embraer Executive Jet's U.S. Fort Lauderdale headquarters. It was a great chance to get to meet business aircraft operators and get first hand reactions from them on the issues of the day. Some of the information in the briefings was alarming, especially the European Emissions Trading Scheme briefing presented by Robert W. Murtha, IBM Flight Ops' Business & Operations Manager. His presentation was a monumental piece of work.
Kathy Perfetti's presentation on IS-BAO (International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations) – and its integral Safety Management System (SMS) requirements -- was not that comforting either. She explained how IS-BAO registration can be a proof of compliance with globally accepted operational a safety standards in any ICAO member state – or maybe not. Kathy is the Standards Manager for IBAC –(International Business Aviation Council), and spoke plainly and directly, leading one audience member to assert that this may well mark the end of Part 91 business aircraft operations – and he was not in the least happy about that. The problem is that he has a point.
NBAA's Sr. V.P. of Government Affairs, Lisa Piccone ran through the gamut of issues the industry faces, while the association's Regional Representative, Dean Saucier presented the regional issues faced by airports and operators.
Paul A. Lange, Chairman of the Connecticut Business Aviation Group, covered that state's issues, noting that they meld to a certain degree with New York's, but remain nonetheless distinct. The group has learned from scratch how to approach its state officials and legislators and was able to finally defeat a multi-year effort by Stratford NIMBY's to block the safety overruns at Bridgeport airport (BDR) which is physically located in Stratford. The no-tax status of aviation maintenance and services is no longer sunsetted – indefinitely preserving aviation business competitiveness and jobs in this business-unfriendly state.
Keep in mind that despite state blandishments and grudging union concessions, Pratt & Whitney has been forced to eliminate 1,000 Connecticut jobs, close a engine facility and move the work to more hospitable Georgia.
Finally, the main lesson I took from the session was that if I were a business operator – or even a line corporate pilot -- I'd seek out a local or regional association. It can be lonely out there.