Safety Is One FAA Focus...

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The FAA made it pretty clear to charter and corporate aviation industry representatives last week that the recent spate of fatal turbine-powered aircraft accidents has the agency's attention. Attendees and the top-level agency officials present pledged to work together in tackling the challenge of improving this industry segment's safety record. The meeting, though planned for some time, came on the heels of six fatal crashes since October involving, well, airplanes that shouldn't be crashing. Before the meeting, ostensibly held to discuss with industry voluntary safety measures operators should be taking, top officials at the FAA made it clear to observers that improving safety among turbine operators was of huge importance. Basically, one observer told AVweb, either the industry addresses the safety issue of improving or the FAA will do it for them. The meeting came at a time when many industry participants and the FAA are working closely to modernize -- and in some cases liberalize -- the existing Part 135 operating and certification regulations through a years-long aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) convened to address FAR Parts 125 and 135. Although the ARC's final meeting and recommendations approval is scheduled for this week, what, if any, impact the FAA's heightened concern will have on that effort is not known at this time. For its part, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) said it was "pleased" to participate in the meeting. "It was clear from our discussion that FAA officials are especially interested in the voluntary programs developed by trade associations that establish high safety standards and guidelines. Of particular interest to the Agency was the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations program, which NBAA has been instrumental in developing," NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said in a statement. But Bolen also took the opportunity to gig the FAA on its accident data collection methods, saying, "While we were pleased to discuss the work our Association does to promote best practices, we also reiterated our continuing concern about the methods FAA uses to track the safety record for business aviation. We believe the FAA’s overly broad categorization of our industry produces an unclear and misrepresentative depiction of the true safety record for business aircraft."