Ryan Waguespack, Senior Vice President, National Air Transportation Association, discusses the NATA’s focus and services designed to empower its members to be safe and successful aviation businesses. Topics covered include:
Ryan Waguespack is NATA’s Senior Vice President. He joined the staff of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) as Vice President of Aircraft Management, Air Charter Services and MROs in November 2018. A long-time supporter of the aviation business community and NATA, Ryan Waguespack served as the Chair of NATA’s WorkForce Development Committee and Illegal Charter Task Force, as well as Vice Chair of the Air Charter Committee as an association member. As Vice President, Ryan leads the Association and industry effort to combat illegal charter, working with the FAA and its Field Offices to educate the public on the risks, assisting the FAA in enforcement through data collection and reporting, and leveraging existing data sources to help the agency focus enforcement efforts.
Previously, he served in various operational roles for charter management companies, as well as aircraft sales, working closely with clients to educate them throughout the purchasing process and help them attain the best aviation solution for their needs. Prior to NATA, Waguespack held the position of Vice President of Business Development of Summit Aviation.
Waguespack is the founder of the Alabama Business Aviation Association, an organization dedicated to promoting the value of business aviation throughout the state, educating stakeholders on the value of business aircraft and community airports, and advocating on behalf of aviation businesses.
A staunch champion for promoting aviation workforce development, Ryan travels the country to speak at industry events dedicated to reaching the next generation of pilots, maintainers and business aviation leaders. He is also a frequent guest lecturer at universities nationwide, including Auburn University in the Harbert College of Business, Southern Illinois University, and the University of Dubuque. Through Waguespack’s community-building initiatives at the universities, he is working to develop channels to connect rising students with aviation businesses.
Ryan is a recreational pilot who lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife Amanda and two children.
For the past 80 years, NATA has contributed significantly to the prosperity of aviation service companies and has been a catalyst for improvement within the aviation industry. NATA is the national association of aviation business service providers. Our mission is empowering our members to be safe and successful aviation businesses. NATA is the leading national trade association representing the business interests of general aviation service companies on legislative and regulatory matters at the federal level, while also providing education, services, and benefits to our members to help ensure their long-term economic success.
Tony Kioussis (00:05):
Welcome to another Asset Insight podcast, covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight and your host. Founded in 1940, the stated mission of the National Air Transportation Association is to empower its members to be safe and successful aviation businesses. NATA has contributed significantly to the prosperity of aviation service companies since it was established, and it has been a catalyst for improvement within the aviation industry. Joining me today to discuss the organization’s focus in services is senior vice president, Ryan Waguespack. Let’s start off with a more in depth understanding of the NATA and what it does.
Ryan Waguespack (01:16):
So like you stated, NATA’s been around for over 80 years, and our focus has really been on empowering our members. Our members represent the businesses within business aviation. FBOs, air charter operator management companies, repair stations, flight schools, we’ve even got a growing division of airports, as airports and communities have chosen to get involved in the pumping of fuel that they’re municipally run airports. It’s been an interesting blend of business and government partnership and collaborating. So that’s who we represent, and we try to do everything we can to empower and collaborate across all those sectors.
Tony Kioussis (01:57):
The sectors that you mentioned, can you elaborate on those?
So we’ve got a 135 committee that has multiple spinoff committees, but the aircraft and management side of looking at the regulatory space, working with different agencies, the FAA working legislatively. We’ve got a number of by committee spin-offs, the air charter broker committee that’s looking at the interaction between air charter brokers and operators, and how they can work together, create a standard, but also provide a quality product to the end customer.
The repair station side of the house goes without saying, looking at different regulatory aspects, collaborating with the management, 135 companies could perform any maintenance inspections and how that looks. The airport business committee is very unique, it continues to grow into municipal run airports, and looking at the fuel flow issues, credit lines, interacting with operators and repair stations, leases with tenants, leases with municipal airports, and it’s been a crazy time period since COVID hit, because all of that has been thrusted to the forefront, and being able to continue to collaborate and work together, as we’ve seen a massive deficit in activity, specifically in the March timeframe, March and April, working together to keep our infrastructure alive and keep it running. So I think most of the general public doesn’t really recognize the need for business aviation, being able to move essential workers, being able to continue to supply patrol lines, helicopters, police. That’s been a lot of the topics of conversation. How do we keep everyone safe during this unprecedented time?
Tony Kioussis (03:44):
You mentioned the COVID-19 crisis. Has there been any change in focus at the NATA in view of the crisis?
Ryan Waguespack (03:52):
Absolutely. We’ve got a safety committee that is made up of safety officers from the FBO space. When COVID hit, we recognized, “Oh my gosh.” We’ve set up a COVID taskforce, which was made up of operations, old type minds from the 135 committee, and then brought the safety committee, the FBO safety committee involved also, to collaborate. We recognized that, okay, flight activity is going to have an uptick. We need to be prepared for that. We need to be able to provide our customers the confidence that if they choose to fly private, that these steps are being made, that these protocols are in place.
So we formed a document about three weeks into COVID, because operations were continuing to go. I was hearing horror stories about air ambulance providers showing up to a facility, and again, everybody was living in such fear, understandably, so they didn’t want pilots coming in and using the facilities. The pilots were left to kind of hang out there and not having to use the restroom. How do we even function here? So we built out some SOPs on guidelines, best practices as operations returned to normal. Interactions between air ops and ground ops. Then we saw, okay, the cleanliness aspect of it. We developed a safety first clean standard, the FBOs. Whether you’re a general aviation airport or an airport at a large 139 field providing comfort to our flight line, our crews, our CSRs, our techs, and therefore our passengers, these FBOs, these operators are meeting a safety first clean standard, and it is a checklist of items that they have to perform routinely to be certified to meet that cleanliness standard.
Tony Kioussis (05:42):
Let’s discuss the NATA’s focus in education and outreach. Give us a better sense of the organization’s initiatives in these areas.
Ryan Waguespack (05:50):
I was in the industry for a little over 18 years in the private sector, growing companies, and I felt like the business aviation world, specifically the businesses in business aviation, needed a solid voice on what we were truly working towards. Historically, I’ve worked with repair stations and air charter operation management companies, and one of the big issues that we continued, that I continued to confront, was illegal operations. You’re out there, you’re building a management company and you’re talking to charter customers, and the lack of education of understanding if I were to go out and purchase an aircraft and I want it to earn revenue, there are legal ways of doing that, and then there are nonlegal ways of doing that, and I think the majority of the aircraft owner pools/new entrance into the market, which we would expect to see a big boom in, really doesn’t realize and recognize how significant the federal government is involved in our national airspace system, and how you have to seek approvals, there are requirements, there are regulations in place. For the most part, just keep our sky safe, and that is what an air charter certificate does.
Ryan Waguespack (07:06):
So if I want to earn income and I want to put my aircraft and hold my aircraft out there, I need to place that with a management company that offers an air charter certificate. They’ve gone through the regulatory steps to meet those expectations of the FAA and VOT. Unfortunately, for decades, there’s been this underlying gray charter, sham dry leases, illegal timeshares. It’s really not recognizing, as I like to call, we’ve kind of had this surge in the Uberization of our culture, where we assume that if a car or an aircraft, someone picks us up, that they’ve gone through the steps. Pretty airplane shows, up a pilot gets out, he’s in a white shirt, [inaudible 00:00:07:51]. He’s been trained, he’s current, the aircraft’s well-maintained, and for those who’ve been in the industry long enough, realize that that’s just not the case, and unfortunately, there’s been a lot of incidents and accidents over the course of decades that showcase that.
Ryan Waguespack (08:04):
So it’s been really our push to go out and educate the market. We have to first educate the regulators on what was happening, and now we’re going out and educating the market how to do it properly. There are pitfalls, be aware. We started the illegal charter taskforce in June of 2018, and we kind of deemed the three categories of the outreach program, as we’re trying to address the careless, clueless and the criminal. The association and industry are really trying to educate the careless and the clueless, those who don’t really understand the regs, they don’t understand the requirements that are in place. We cannot touch the criminal. That is for FAA, DOT, homeland security, CBD, these other organizations to address those entities or individuals that are intentionally skirting the regs.
Ryan Waguespack (08:54):
So education still remains extremely important to our operation, as we want our industry to continue to grow, mature, prosper, and part of that is communicating and bringing everybody together and having these key discussions.
Tony Kioussis (09:11):
What are some of the resources available online at nata.aero that people can access?
Ryan Waguespack (09:17):
Part of one of the challenges that I recognized in the industry was, again, you would be talking to that charter customer or that aircraft owner and saying, “We’re not trying to sit here and overcomplicate this. There’s steps.” I remember having multiple conversations of, “Well, it’s going to take you three or four months to get through a conformity process. I can take my aircraft down here to this other entity, and he can start generating income for me tomorrow,” and it was always perceived, I remember, as, “Well, you’re over complicating this just to get my business.” That wasn’t the truth.
So initially, we came out with a resource page at nata.aero. So operators, air charter brokers, even aircraft owners could go and look at the process as a resource. What is conformity? What really is that process, and why is it the way it is that we have to jump through these regulatory hoops? Same thing with an air charter broker, making sure that they can provide why this quote is what it is, because again, they’re comparing it to a friend of a friend of a friend’s aircraft, where they’re not paying FET, and it’s just not a commercial aircraft, it’s a private aircraft, and what does that look like?
Ryan Waguespack (10:25):
In addition to these resources that can be pushed out, we’ve got a tail number search. So one of the issues that we’ve seen is, how do I even know if the aircraft’s currently on an air charter certificate? How do I know that it is active on a DO85 of an air carrier? The FAA has had these resources available through their site for a number of years. The FAA has nine different lists that they combined that has been nearly impossible for anybody from the public space to go on and dig in, so we wanted to make it easy. So you can actually go to the website, type in 9721 KILO, and it will pull up if it’s currently on an air charter certificate, who it is, even if it’s BBAs or who’s the owner.
Ryan Waguespack (11:17):
So that’s been really a good addition to the market as more illegal charter reports come up. The first response is we always ask, “Well, how do you know it’s illegal?” We have different air charter models now. We have floating fleets, because it used to be, “Well, this airplane just showed up in my backyard and I think it’s illegal.” They’re able to go online and search to see if it’s currently on a charter certificate.
Our desire as an association is to listen to our membership, work with our membership and work with the community. We’re seeing this as an opportunity right now with COVID to further the general aviation and business aviation footprint, and the only way that’s really going to work is continuing to collaborate. It’s a tough time for everybody, but we’re excited about being able to be in this position to work with all the forms of business aviation and general aviation to make it better for the next generation. New grads and new entrance into the market look at our industry as a longterm viable career choice.
Tony Kioussis (12:26):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at assetinsightpodcast.com, and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis, and as always, thank you for listening.
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