NATCA Well Represented at Key Aviation Issues Conference
Thursday, January 10, 2013
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi (second from top left), NWP RVP Ham Ghaffari (center lower row, navy shirt) and Safety Committee Chairman Steve Hansen (far right, bottom row) join members at an event last week.
NATCA Member Nichele Benuska, of Kahului Tower (OGG) on Maui.
The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Aviation Issues Conference has served as the preeminent gathering of aviation professionals for nearly three decades. It has brought together top-level officials from government and all segments of the aviation industry for in-depth discussions of key issues and charting the course for the Washington agenda in the year ahead.
The 2013 conference, held this week in Maui, Hawaii, once again offered a unique format with opportunity for direct engagement and exchange with decision makers and industry leaders. NATCA was again in the middle of the discussion as a key stakeholder. The discussions took on added importance by offering attendees a critical, first look at what the 2012 elections will mean on Capitol Hill and in key federal agencies including the FAA.
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi led NATCA's participation at the event, following several days of visiting NATCA's local facilities across the Hawaiian islands along with Western Pacific Regional Vice President Ham Ghaffari. Rinaldi helped kick off the first day of the conference by participating in an "Aviation Industry Leaders' Forum" that sought to preview the year ahead and beyond. Among the panelists were former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l. (ALPA) President Capt. Lee Moak.
"The panel discussion was centered around the theme of the uncertainty of the federal budget and whether there is a different way to fund the National Airspace System," Rinaldi said. "Coming just days after the 'fiscal cliff' was averted for two more months, everybody was focused on what may happen this year and how we're going to deal with these challenges. NATCA has offered its insight through our report released last month and this was a key forum to continue to make our voice heard. We were again pleased to be involved in this high-level event."
NATCA Deputy Director of Government Affairs Erin Barry participated in a panel called "Washington Update: 2012 Elections and the Impact on Aviation Policy."
"I explained how NATCA is always looking for a 'NATCA
majority,' and, regardless of party, every member of Congress uses our
aviation system and has a vested interest in the men and women who keep
our skies the safest in the world," Barry said.
NextGen Representative Mel Davis, on Tuesday, was on a key modernization panel aimed at discussing how best to build a consensus to deliver the promises of NextGen.
Airport operators play a critical role in the NAS, Davis said, and they are the closest connection to local airport communities system-wide. "There are great examples of strong relationships between NATCA and airport authorities across the country," he said. "This conference gives NATCA an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and establish new connections all at once."
NextGen is the combination of a significant infrastructure investment and a complex system modernization. The AAAE conference dedicated an entire session to NextGen in an effort to help airport authorities better understand the complexities of NextGen and provide insights into how they can participate in the modernization effort.
"The NAS is very safe and very efficient," Davis said. "However, NATCA is committed to improving it in every way possible. Currently, there is a negative safety trend with runway excursions; aircraft touching down, then overrunning a runway. Through the deployment of NextGen capabilities, aircraft will fly more stabilized approaches, which will reduce runway excursions. Most experts focus on the efficiencies of NextGen, but we should highlight the safety enhancements also."
As airport operators hear the details of the NextGen plan, Davis added, they start to band together and present a common unified voice to Congress in an effort to continue NAS modernization.
National Safety Committee Chairman Steve Hansen helped moderate the panel and also participated in another panel on the final day of the conference Thursday that discussed both the challenges and the opportunities facing the aviation community in 2013.
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi speaks with members at a gathering last week.
NATCA Deputy Director of Government Affairs Erin Barry (third from right) participates in a panel Monday.
NATCA NextGen Representative Mel Davis (left) and panel moderator Steve Hansen (far right), chairman of the National Safety Committee.
Mel Davis, projected on the large TV screens in the conference room.
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi (center, blue shirt) listens as ALPA President Capt. Lee Moak (to Paul's left) makes a point during the Aviation Industry Leaders' Forum.
NSC Chairman Steve Hansen.