As 2019 begins things are looking familiar in Business Aviation. Dave Higdon looks at the year ahead, highlighting some areas for caution, as well as the need for action among the business aircraft operator community...
The partial government shut-down isn't devastating aviation transactions as badly as prior shutdowns have, thanks to congressional foresight. Controllers continue to do their jobs, but parts of our national security apparatus are not, including those charged with protecting US borders.
Meanwhile, weather forecasts continue to flow into our electronic flight bags, albeit with new METAR coding. But some FAA activities are on hold because of the shutdown.
As 2019 gets under way in earnest, there are other reasons to be cautious, perhaps even wary…
The Immortality of Bad Ideas
In a 2011 interview for AvBuyer, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen observed, “User fees are a bad idea and in Washington it’s almost impossible to permanently kill a bad idea. After a while someone will note that it’s been a while and that maybe they should review the issue again.
“We have to be ready to react to that.”
Bolen repeated that statement, almost verbatim, late in December 2018. Noting the success of the private aviation community's grass-roots lobbying efforts that successfully excluded from the FAA reauthorization bill language to privatize the FAA's air-traffic services, he reaffirmed the need for continued vigilance.
This bad idea, and its user fees companion, returned like a persistent zombie, rearing its head again and again under virtually every president going back to Ronald Reagan.
The shape and form varies, but this time the return is literally pre-ordained. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last year said, “This idea is going to come back.”
Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told an audience at the Aero Club of Washington that the FAA still needs consistent funding, a recurring argument for ATC privatization – with user fees, of course. And the new five-year FAA reauthorization includes language requiring a study of the subject.
Rarely is an issue permanently resolved by Congress. Whatever wins or loses, a bad idea's proponents never really surrender. They fall back, they commission new studies, they convene new focus groups – and they diligently seek out that magic argument they believe they need to sway their opponents this time.
Some More Immediate Challenges
The aviation community now has less than 12 months to comply with the January 1, 2020 mandate to equip with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Already some shops are backlogged, with bookings extending beyond the mandate date.
Other mandates also loom domestically and internationally. New business aircraft models are coming through their development pipelines; avionics advances never end; and the aviation community collectively struggles to fill demanding jobs – in particular software engineers, avionics technicians, airframe and powerplant technicians, cabin and cockpit jobs.
Seldom has the aviation community held such promise for those interested in a secure, rewarding and dynamic career – if only we could attract the people needed…
With just less than 51 weeks to go in 2019, the potential for our future has seldom been to bright, if we remain on guard to deal with the inevitable challenges. Happy 2019 all! Let's all hope we can, and will, do better…