August 5, 2013

When you ask NBAA’s Northeast Regional Representative, Dean Saucier, about the challenges business aviation faces in his area, he can talk about it from personal experience.

“I had to be at White Plains Airport in New York not long ago and arrived half a minute past 6:29 a.m. A few weeks later, I got a letter from the airport commission saying I violated the curfew, which ends at 6:30 a.m. sharp. I was 30 seconds early.”

Stringent curfew enforcement and other issues, such as noise abatement and access concerns, are continuing challenges to aviators in the Northeast, although Saucier would be the first to say that things are slowly improving. While he said he spends 80 percent of his time representing NBAA Members before local airport and other officials on matters such as these, Saucier also advocates for business aviation to local and state governments on a host of additional issues, and pointed to a number of recent legislative victories NBAA and its regional allies have recently won in the area.

“We have strong regional groups and equally strong aviation caucuses within state legislatures throughout the region,” Saucier pointed out. “That’s been a huge help in passing into law tax legislation and other policies that are workable and make sense for our industry.”

Saucier pointed to the recent passage in Pennsylvania of a bill that exempts the sale at retail or use of aircraft parts, services to aircraft, and aircraft components from a 6-percent sales tax.

“Legislators in Pennsylvania collaborated with their counterparts in other states, and took input from NBAA and other industry advocates, in considering this measure and passing it into law. We hope and believe we’ll see an influx in employment,” he said.

Saucier also mentioned the passage in Maine two years ago of a tax exemption for aviation maintenance and parts. That measure was initially set for review in 2015, under a “sunset” clause.

“But after two years, [Maine] Gov. Paul LePage saw that his state’s repair stations were able to increase both employment and local economic impact,” noted Saucier. “The governor said, ‘We have to do more.’ So he signed into law an exemption with a longer, 10-year sunset clause.”

Saucier said these victories in Maine and Pennsylvania are significant, but warned against complacency.

“There’s nothing to say that a new legislator – who doesn’t understand all the benefits of aviation – might come into office and introduce a measure to do away with these tax exemptions,” he said. “We’re seeing major gains, thanks to NBAA, regional aviation groups and other industry voices. What we have to do is constantly point to the economic gains that result from these measures. We’re growing the economies in these states. Even when other industries are shrinking, we’re growing.”

For example, Saucier pointed to ongoing cooperative ventures between aviation interests and the community at large near airports like Teterboro, NJ.

“There, we formed a working group to deal with noise abatement. In fact, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen was a founding member of that group. As a result of our efforts, along with the regional business aviation group and the National Air Transportation Association, we were able to show airport neighbors that we have indeed reduced the airport’s noise footprint,” Saucier said.

“But it’s a constant battle,” he concluded. “We have to be very vigilant.”