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How often do your pilots get a preflight briefing, file a flight plan, board the passengers and then, when they call for a taxi, find out that their on-time departure will now be delayed due to an air traffic control (ATC) issue? Wouldn't it be great if the pilots, schedulers and dispatchers could learn about possible delays three to four hours prior to departure? And wouldn't it be even better if someone could offer advice on how a flight could be rerouted to complete the mission in a timely manner with enough notice to amend catering, ground transportation and other key travel arrangements? The NBAA General Aviation (GA) Desk staff can help you do this by providing you with the tools and information needed to enhance trip planning and facilitate issue resolution.
The GA Desk's History and Mission
In July 2001, the NBAA accepted an invitation from the FAA to create a full-time, NBAA-staffed position – the NBAA GA Desk – at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Northern Virginia, and today, the GA Desk is staffed by five NBAA employees seven days a week.The mission of the FAA's Command Center is to balance safety requirements with strategic management of airspace capacity and demand so as to minimize delays and congestion while maximizing the overall throughput of the National Airspace System (NAS).
The GA Desk's mission is to represent business aviation's interests as the daily NAS strategy is being planned and executed. NBAA's participation in this process helps ensure equity when airspace is allocated and traffic management initiatives are implemented. In short, NBAA is on site at the Command Center to communicate business aviation's airspace needs and to work towards traffic management solutions that will benefit the business aviation community while also helping the flow in the NAS.
It is important to note that none of the GA Desk specialists are former controllers. NBAA hires business aviation professionals with a background in dispatching and scheduling so that their experience in business aviation operations complements the FAA's traffic flow management function. GA Desk specialists strive to translate controllers' traffic flow management communications into something more easily understood by NBAA Members.
The GA Desk's Value to Members
The value of having NBAA Members' interests represented at the Command Center was first demonstrated on 9/11 and during the days that immediately followed. GA Desk staffers provided critical, reliable information and were helpful in separating rumors from fact. Their expertise was tapped numerous times by FAA personnel who needed clarification on NOTAM language applicable to our community and help with understanding the sometimes subtle differences between Part 91 and 135 operations.The FAA also utilized the GA Desk to communicate flight release information as the NAS again opened to its customers.
Since 9/11, the GA Desk has found many more ways to help NBAA Members as a basic benefit of their Membership. For instance, every time the President or Vice President travels, the FAA issues a 91.141 temporary flight restriction (TFR) that could potentially hamper GA operations.The GA Desk receives advanced notice of these possible movements, which it is allowed to share within four business days of the event so that Members may start making alternative travel plans, if needed. Once the NOTAM is released, the GA Desk staffers review a graphical plot of the NOTAM that coordinates affected airports with their planned closure times.This review is then translated into a plain-language impact statement that is posted to the NBAA Members-only Airspace Alert e-mail subscriber list. In fact, one of the greatest benefits that the NBAA GA Desk provides to all NBAA Members is access to Airspace Alerts.
Airspace Alerts and Other Benefits
The GA Desk posts information to the Airspace Alerts list that is applicable to real-time NAS operations that could affect a majority of Members. Anyone who is involved in flight planning or execution – schedulers, dispatchers or pilots – should sign up to receive these alerts. Examples include:
- Notification of proposed and verified VIP movement to include which airports are affected when.
- Updates on hurricanes, which include track information, affected airports and ATC facilities, impact and return-to-service information.
- Real-time information on TFRs related to special national events, political events such as the President's State of the Union Address or sporting events such as the Super Bowl.
- Airspace flow program information when weather or air traffic volume could result in major delays.
GA Desk staffers also participate in the joint FAA/industry Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) Workgroup, which comprises subteams that develop and enhance procedures and automation related to delay programs, routing issues and even the special traffic management program (STMP) process. The STMP team was developed at NBAA's urging to ensure continuous review and improvement of the STMP program. All NBAA Members benefit from the GA Desk's participation in the CDM process because it ensures that business aviation's perspective – not just an airline viewpoint – is part of all CDM discussions.
Several other ways the GA Desk routinely assists the average NBAA Member are listed in the sidebar to this article.
GA Desk Benefits for All NBAA Members
Just by being an NBAA Member, you automatically have access to the following benefits provided by the GA Desk:
- Face-to-face representation at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center and at CDM Workgroup discussions.
- NBAA Airspace Alerts, a subscriber-based e-mail list providing information applicable to real-time NAS operations that could affect a majority of Members,. (Subscribe at www.nbaa.org/airmail.)
- NBAA Navigator, a semiannual newsletter that provides meaningful information about upcoming ATC initiatives, training tips and a quick-reference insert that can be used in dispatch operations or on the flight deck.
- Traffic flow management presentations held during NBAA events, including the Annual Meeting & Convention, Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference and Business Aviation Regional Forums.
The GA Desk staff wants to continue to do more for NBAA Members by giving them the support they need to improve traffic flow management within their own flight departments. Send your suggestions or comments to the GA Desk at [email protected].