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Seaman: Let’s Hear a Strong Voice for Aviation

Look at just some of the issues that aviation as a whole in Canada is and will be facing.


September 27, 2007
By Rob Seaman

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I was chatting with a colleague recently who works for an aviation
association (I call them the “alphabet orgs”). He told me that during a
meeting involving several other alphabet orgs, one of them made a
proposal that, had it been passed and acted on, would have had a
negative impact on others in the industry. In my friend’s opinion, the
impact would not have been intentional, instead, the group making the
proposal had simply not taken everything into consideration. In the
end, the group was convinced to withdraw its suggestion. While this was
something of a victory, it does serve to highlight a growing problem in
the aviation community, one that can and will work against us all in
the end if we do not do something about it.

For
starters, the number of alphabet orgs in Canada is staggering – and
growing. So while there is no lack of people talking about aviation,
the concern is that some are speaking without a view to the common
good. The problem is that unless aviation speaks with a collective
voice, there could be omissions, wrong directions, and losses in jobs,
industry rights and services, and ultimately in aircraft rights. It is
far too easy to sit in isolation and plead a selfish point of interest
and ignore the greater impact.

Airports, for example, need to
find ways to work with the communities that grow around them, but they
must also ensure that the decisions they make do not set precedents
that can be used to harm others when applied in different
circumstances. If you want examples of this short-term thinking, just
look south of our border. There are many cases of airports allowing or
disallowing certain aircraft activities that then mushroom when a
lawyer later calls such rules into play as a precedent to impose
something similar on a larger hub airport. Restrictions on (or all-out
bans of) phase-two aircraft is one such example – and one that is
raging currently in the U.S. The famed Meigs Field destruction in
Chicago is another.

Look at just some of the issues that
aviation as a whole in Canada is and will be facing. There are
revisions to air Regs and legislation. As governments come and go at an
electoral whim, so do many policies. Communities continue to expand and
encroach on previously established airports – and then complain about
just about everything to do with them. Some municipalities that bought
airports from the feds under the National Airports Policy are having
trouble funding their operation now, and in some cases are considering
closing their fields. Then there are user fees, environmental issues
and studies to cope with. And of course funding – for airports and the
industry – it means jobs, service, support and health to aviation.

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We
also need to consider aviation security at all levels – the costs, the
needs, implementation and levels of enforcement. And while these are
just a few examples, it all amounts to the same thing – aviation is
facing some tough times. And while special-interest “alphabet orgs” are
good for the interests of their members, they do not and cannot always
look at the entire industry. If we are to preserve what we have – let
alone press for change and move things forward into a new and
enlightened realm – we need some solidarity and commonality of thought,
along with a realistic approach and voice.

Should we do away
with the individual alphabet orgs? Not in the opinion of many of whom I
have spoken with recently. But there is, nevertheless, a common
agreement that perhaps we – the aviation community – should seek
regular and frequent communication and exchange among all of these
groups. This could be achieved by gathering for face-to-face meetings,
or through electronic exchanges and white paper sharing. It could be
the source for developing sound and common strategies or plans of
attack on common – and in some cases unique – issues our industry and
community are or will be facing.

Other benefits from this would
include sharing goals, data and information or maybe even saving the
other guy from duplicating work that is already being done by others.
By making certain that all of the alphabet orgs focus on a collective
voice on key issues that can and will affect the health and welfare of
Canadian aviation – who knows? We might actually be able to get more
done, for individual interests as well as the entire aviation community.


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