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Monday, January 20, 2003

RACCA Sets Goals For FAR Part 135 Review

Higher Weight Limitations Still Number One Issue

Regional air cargo operators will have an expanded list of issues to put before the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) review committee when it convenes later this year, according to Stan Bernstein, president of the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA).

While RACCA will be looking at several issues that impact on the regional air cargo industry, the primary issue is a full review of Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 135. There are now six major objectives that RACCA is hoping to achieve through that review, Bernstein said. The review committee, which includes participants from both RACCA and the Regional Airline Association (RAA), was scheduled to begin last year, but was held in abeyance pending FAA allocation funding.

Bernstein told C/R News that the number one objective is getting the current payload limit for Part 135 cargo aircraft raised from the current limit of 7,500 pounds to 18,000 pounds. This would move the cargo capabilities of regional aircraft generally from the 19-passenger size aircraft up to roughly the 30- to 40-passenger size turboprops and allow operators of those aircraft to fly under Part 135 rather than incur the huge expense to both the airline and the FAA of getting certified under the more restrictive FAR Part 121.

RACCA would also like FAA to change the ruling concerning the use of simulators for pilot training. Under Part 135, simulators can be used for training, but the pilots get no credit for it. Part 121 pilots get credit for simulator training up to and including final aircraft type certification.

A third objective is to allow the cargo carriers to authorize their own ferry permits. Under the present Part 135 rule, the authority to ferry an aircraft for maintenance purposes has to come from the FAA. This means that if an aircraft goes down on a Friday evening, "the operator has to wait until Monday morning when the FAA returns to the office to get authorization to ferry it" to a maintenance base, Bernstein said. He also noted that cargo carriers tend to move on the opposite side of the 9 to 5 clock, so if something goes down, it will be at least the next day before a ferry permit can be obtained from the FAA. Since Part 121 carriers can issue their own ferry permits, "we feel that we are unfairly singled out in terms of not being able to get things done," he said.

Part 135 operators also cannot give flight hour credit to co-pilots flying in aircraft that require only a single pilot. "We want to put a co-pilot on the airplane and get [the co-pilot] credit for the hours flown with an approved training program," Bernstein said.

Pilot-in-command time is also an important issue for hiring purposes. Presently a pilot needs 1,200 hours to be hired by a Part 135 operator. "We would like to get the PIC time requirement reduced from 1,200 hours to the 900-hour range," he said.

Finally, RACCA "would like to address flight time, duty time and rest regulations as they pertain to cargo-only operations."

Bernstein also noted that initially the FAA had announced that a new Part 135 operations branch would be created with Kathy Perfetti as the branch manager. However, establishment of that operations branch has now been temporarily shelved due to FAA's budget constraints. RACCA strongly supports establishment of this branch, as it would be a great service to our members, he said.

Although the Part 135 operations branch has not yet been official established because of the lack of funds, an FAA spokesman told C/R News that the review is still going on as part of FAA's standards division and that the Part 135 operations branch will be created once the funds become available.

Other issues before RACCA that do not involve the FAA's FAR Part 135 review include insurance requirements for its members and rules and regulations being developed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). "We are developing close liaison with the TSA to ensure that it doesn't create large burdens in terms of moving freight so that it takes longer than it should. We don't want regulations that inhibit the movement of freight, although we certainly understand the need for security constraints," Bernstein said.

As for insurance, Bernstein said that some of RACCA's members "are getting hit really hard." However, he also noted that "the number of phone calls dealing with insurance has declined dramatically, so that tells me things are falling into place." However, he also noted that RACCA will have insurance specialists at the RACCA conference in April "to address that issue." The first annual RACCA conference is scheduled for April 24-25 in Orlando, Fla. (For additional information on the conference, visit the RACCA website at http://www.raccaonline.org).

Birth Of An Association

The RACCA is the only association solely devoted to the interests of the regional air cargo industry, formed last August (C/R News, Sept. 16, 2002) in response to a survey sent out by Bernstein to determine if there was a need for a separate air cargo association for the regional industry. At that time, the only associations the cargo carriers could go to were the RAA and the National Air Transport Association (NATA), he said.

"The RAA and NATA do a great job for their primarily focused responsibilities, but Part 135 cargo operators are not their primary focus. There really was no other place for the cargo operators to go other than NATA, but when they had an NATA meeting, the cargo carriers were just another agenda item among many other aspects of NATA. Unfortunately, NATA failed to recognize just how large a group, and how important a group, it was."

Basically, the cargo operators have two basic needs, said Gregory Thompson, president of Seattle, Wash.-based Airpac Airlines and a RACCA board member. "One is an association that is focused strictly on cargo, but then we need somebody focusing on the broader issues, which are NATA and RAA. We joined RACCA because it is focused just on the cargo carriers' needs, but we will remain members of RAA and NATA because they provide a lot of valuable services for Part 135 operations. They have a wide range of topics that are important to me that are aside from cargo."

Another factor favoring a separate association for cargo operators is that "today the RAA represents very sophisticated air carriers," said James Germek, president & CEO of Milwaukee, Wisc.-based Air Cargo Carriers and also a board member. "The regionals are not the mom & pop operations they used to be, where we had all the vendors we buy from coming to the [RAA] show. The last time I went to the show was two years ago and there were only two vendors that we knew anything about. That entire segment of the industry is very high end, all regional jets, or trying to be. We don't even operate the same kind of engines they do. A lot of the fundamental issues that have to do with flying seven to 10 hours a day aren't applicable to flying two to three hours a day, so there is a big difference."

Germek noted that RACCA does not currently plan to hold any trade shows similar to the annual RAA meeting and trade show, although the planned conference this April in Orlando is expected to become an annual event.

Germek is concentrating his efforts on putting together a buying group for purchasing, "so that we can demand the deepest discounts that we can possible get. That's the area I'm working on, figuring out what everybody uses, then go purchase it with sufficient lead times, maybe saving ourselves 15 to 20 percent if we can buy as a group."

Bernstein started out as a line pilot for Air New England in the early 1970s, working his way up to executive vice president. He then went with Piedmont Airlines, flying 737s prior to its merger with US Air. He simultaneously started an airline aircraft leasing business, which he still owns. Five years ago he started Heritage Turbines, a complete Pratt & Whitney PT6A service center. "So I've covered the regional airline industry from many fronts, including airline operations, leasing and maintenance," he said. "I felt I had a pretty good handle on the needs of the [regional] industry."

Early last year Bernstein sent survey letters to 96 certified regional cargo carriers in the United States, asking if they felt there was a need for a regional cargo-only association. "I also asked if there were levels of dissatisfaction with the representation that they were receiving and would they like to see changes made to the regulations dealing with the operating environments they were in. I got back a resounding, desperation cry for the need for an organization. Five airline executives actually enclosed checks when they sent back the survey. There had not been any request in the survey for money. That told me there was a real need for the organization."

Following the survey, Bernstein sent invitations to 15 selected individuals to attend a meeting in August in Wichita, Kan., and to sit on the board of directors. "All 15 arrived, again confirming the need for an all-cargo organization." The RACCA was created at that meeting, with the founding members electing officers, adopting by-laws and "doing all the typical things a not-for-profit organization has to do," he said. All the founding members also became board members.

Since being formed last August, RACCA has grown from an initial group of 11 airlines and four associate members (Raytheon, Cessna, ATR and DHL) to a total as of mid-January of 28 airlines and 17 associate members. While the members include both FedEx and DHL, it does not include UPS, which is the largest buyer of feeder service in terms of contract flying in the United States, Germek said.

"It is a very significant point that UPS chose not to participate in the group, since they have significant weight to throw behind it. They initially said they would, but at the last minute they decided to defer. The participation by DHL and FedEx and the offerings they made to help were beneficial. Unfortunately, at the present time UPS has chosen not to be represented by RACCA." Bernstein told C/R News that the door is still open to UPS and that its participation would be welcome.

One of the main efforts of the organization is to get members of its board to Washington, D.C., at least once a month to meet with key government regulators, both regulatory and legislative, Bernstein said.

Thompson pointed out that while RAA and NATA can meet some needs of the Part 135 operators, "the cargo carriers needed a focus in Washington with the FAA and TSA, that is what RACCA has brought us." Germek noted that "without RACCA, we wouldn't have been represented at all [in the FAR Part 135 review]. The FAA until recently didn't realize how big the Part 135 cargo segment of the industry is. With over 800 cargo aircraft flying every day and evening, we represent the largest segment of the Part 135 operators. So on the regulatory side there were just no good fits there. Once we educate them, there might be. Stan [Bernstein] has really brought us forward so that the FAA has sat up and paid attention, finally recognizing that we exist," Germek said.

Bernstein and other RACCA members have a planned meeting this week with Sam Whitehorn, chief counsel of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, to discuss issues before the panel and "we also have a meeting planned with Nicolas Sabatini, the FAA associate administrator for rules and regulations. This is all aimed at the continuing education of our government leaders and regulators to the existence of RACCA and its goals," Bernstein said. "We plan to continue these monthly meeting with government officials and other aviation organizations through 2003."

(Contact: RACCA, Stan Bernstein, telephone: 508-778-7788, e-mail: raccaemail@aol.com; Airpac Airlines, Gregory Thompson, telephone: 206-762-8006; Air Cargo Carriers, James Germek, telephone: 414-482-1711)

 

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