The US House Subcommittee on Aviation heard testimony on July 13th from multiple aviation industry groups, including the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) regarding the current state of general aviation, and the news was largely positive, though leaders shared challenges and future hazards to the segment.
NATA President and CEO, Timothy Obitts, told the subcommittee, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, general aviation proved its national value by continuing to deliver vital essential services when commercial aviation shut down.” He went on to say, “Part 135 air carriers and general aviation airports provided critical medical transport, supported essential law enforcement and firefighting services, transported testing and vaccine supplies, facilitated business travel to maintain economic growth, and kept remote communities safely connected.”
However, with increased flight activity comes new entrants to the 135 charter market. Industry observers have noted that this influx of new charter companies also has led to a dangerous uptick in illegal charters.
NATA believes the prevalence of the illegal charter activity begins with inconsistent investigation and enforcement by regional Flight District Standards Offices (FSDO’s). Some of this may be related to a lack of resources at the FAA to investigate and increase enforcement against these illegal charter operators. And since the NTSB reviews and settles the backlog of appeals, additional resources for those tasked with hearing and deciding on those appeals would also assist in curbing the illegal operations in the 135 industry.
GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce also testified about the challenges that the business aviation community faces, which includes supply chain issues, the future of aviation fuels, efforts to strengthen the industry’s workforce and concerns over radio frequency spectrum allocation, to name a few.