WASHINGTON, D.C. — Numerous government regulations, slow response times for decisions, and frequent inconsistencies by the FAA are harming small general aviation businesses.
That’s the message the House Small Business Committee heard last week from a number of witnesses who own their own businesses, as well as officials from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
One of the biggest challenges small aviation businesses face is response times for FAA approvals, said John Uczekaj, president of Aspen Avionics.
He told the committee that each week businesses like his are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because of approval delays from the FAA. When a business like Aspen Avionics begins the process of developing a certified product it must submit to a sequencing process by the FAA that is unpredictable and often results in increased development times and costs, he said.
There also is a lack of clarity and inconsistencies between certification offices in different FAA regions. Various offices interpret guidelines differently and often procedures followed on previous programs are implemented and interpreted differently on later programs. Changes in personnel in the middle of a program further complicates the problem, he said.
Additional work levied late in a recent Aspen program meant unplanned increased costs, he reported. This resulted in the loss of 13 high-paying jobs— 20 percent of the workforce — last October.
Current regulations, policies, and procedures make it difficult or impossible for general aviation to adopt and implement new technology, the head of Royal Aircraft Services of Hagerstown, Md., told the committee. Austin Hefferman said certification for new aircraft is important, but reform efforts must be expanded to ensure that owners of existing aircraft can make safety improvements. Unless changes are made to speed up processes, there is question about whether GA can be properly equipped to operate when NextGen becomes required.
An example of FAA delays is the angle of attack indicator for small aircraft. It was approved early in February this year after three years of consideration.
Speaking for NBAA and his company, Ascension Air, Jamail Larkins told the committee alarming new policies for pilots are emerging without industry input. These include the controversial plan to subject pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to obstructive Sleep Apnea screening. He cited the value of business aviation to small businesses and communities of all sizes.
Hefferman reminded the Small Business Committee of the importance of GA to the nation. General aviation contributes approximately $150 billion to the annual domestic product and approximately 1.2 million jobs in communities nationwide. About 94% of the firms that provide cargo and passenger air transportation services are considered small businesses, as are 90% of businesses involved in the development and manufacture of aircraft and parts.