How FABA members have shaped economy and innovation
The year was 1946. Just one year after the largest war in human history, the fighting men of America were all coming home, ready to learn, work, and launch new enterprises. It is no surprise then, that the combined efforts of this generation began many great efforts, one of them the Florida Aviation Trades Association (FATA) which has become today the Florida Aviation Business Association (FABA).
World War II had some positive effects on the ability for aviation to proliferate. Countless aerodromes and fields were either taken over or created by the military to meet the incredible demands for pilot training. Those airports that already existed were lavished with longer runways, offered better maintenance services, and extra facilities. Florida has always been a prime place for flight training, evidenced by the countless student pilots from around the world who come to the state. Flight students come from all corners of the globe including Colombia, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and even Sweden.
At the end of World War II, Florida enjoyed the benefits of a strong aviation industry. But as business expanded, some people had the acute vision to see that the benefits that aviation was bringing to Florida must be protected. Some people like Chesson, Sowell, and Showalter, among many others, came together to form what is now the FABA. Now going on seventy years, it’s time to see what the FABA has done, as well as see the changing face of Florida’s aviation.
An overview of aviation in the Sunshine State
Ever since 1946, aviation has had great success in Florida. Nearly every airport in Florida has grown and expanded, bringing new business. For example, Daytona Beach International Airport has gone from being a Naval Air Station to accepting over six thousand flights per week. Facilities have also expanded allowing for a great volume of traffic. Flight training grew exponentially as well. Florida hosts everything from freelance Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) to Aeronautical Universities, both turning out large numbers of new pilots. Large corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Sikorsky, and many others have facilities here. They smartly use the existing resources in Florida to boost their businesses.
Fixed Based Operators
One of the most interesting business practices to have come to the aviation landscape is the chain store model approach to Fixed Base Operators (FBOs). In recent years some independent FBOs have been bought out by larger organizations. For example, Atlantic, a subsidiary of the Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation, has expanded to serve over 60 locations across the United States since its start in 1927. Sheltair, a more local enterprise has 16 FBOs, mostly in Florida. These FBOs are able to provide service on a consistent scale while ensuring that those pilots and companies who fly often can receive special care as they fly from airport to airport.
However, we can never forget the independent FBO, a testament to the desire to provide good care to all pilots and aircraft. Deric Dymerski, owner of Atlas Aviation, was able to answer some of my questions regarding the running of an FBO. He says that because he was already an FABA member when he started his FBO, he was able to put together enough contacts and knowledge to launch his business. Major portions of his FBO were planned out at FABA meetings with other members. These members now make up his fuel suppliers, rental car services, insurance, legal representation, etc. These members are the people who have a passion for their work and Deric knows he can trust them. FBOs like Deric’s provide quality care to every pilot, from student pilots with Skyhawks to corporate pilots with Citations.
The impact of FABA membership
These benefits of the FABA are an outstanding part of membership, but the greatest successes of the FABA show that it is a powerful organization. Bob Showalter informed me about one of the FABA’s greatest actions to save Florida’s aviation. In the mid 1970’s the Arab Oil Embargo hit the United States. Price controls had been put into effect for margins in petroleum products that allowed FBOs to enjoy a margin of approximately thirteen cents a gallon. At the time fuel retailed at twenty-five to thirty cents a gallon.
The ensuing weeks after the embargo had prices hit over two dollars a gallon. But the margin was still only thirteen cents per gallon! It was paramount that the price controls be moved due to the inflationary effects that the skyrocketing oil price had on everyone’s lives. Wages had to be raised but many FBOs couldn’t afford it. The FABA and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) came to together to make legislators aware of what had occurred. The Federal government had actually already initiated what was called “Phase Four price controls.” Phase Four dropped the price control on every industry within a year, except aviation fuels.
The government had forgotten about aviation fuels and the FABA/NATA partnership quickly went to work ensuring that this section of the economy would be remembered. Calls were placed, meetings were held, and appointments with legislators were made. Finally, after much hardship, the controls were lifted. However, for some FBOs the action was too late. They closed and never reopened, a fate that would have been shared by all FBOs if the FABA and the NATA had not stepped in.
Showalter also shared some of the FABA’s continuing actions, such as the removal of special taxes on aircraft ownership at a state level. Many other states have already removed these types of taxes. This puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage in Florida. The removal of this tax would see businesses and jobs come into the state.
One of the FABA’s greatest strengths is its political strength. The FABA is the only Florida-based association that lobbies only on general aviation issues in the capital of Tallahassee. The FABA takes the position that taxation prevents jobs and forces businesses to look elsewhere to find more favorable tax climates. The state of New York recently repealed its sales tax on aircraft costing more than $230,000. The state of South Carolina has a much lower tax liability. New aircraft owners want to close their sales in those states rather than in Florida for this reason. Florida is full of businesses that manufacture aircraft, but those aircraft are not being bought here. It’s unfortunate, but the FABA is fighting to get rid of these taxes.
The FABA started with the use tax as its first target. It was a success, with the FABA lobbying and achieving a twenty- one day use tax exemption. The next pin to fall was an aircraft repair and maintenance exemption. After successfully securing that exemption the FABA went on to obtain a retroactive repeal of the intangibles tax in 2012 for FBOs. The FABA continues with efforts to repeal the sales tax in Florida. The FABA also serves as a watchdog, ready to encounter future legislative problems. There are many bills which are well-meaning, but poorly structured. These bills can increase taxation and infrastructure costs, as well as pile on more bureaucracy to the business of flying.
FABA’s enduring mission statement
From 1946 to today the FABA’s mission has stayed the same, “To Protect and Promote Aviation.” It can never be said that the FABA has strayed from this mission. Today the FABA continues to promote aviation. Seminars and Best Practices discussions have made every business under the FABA’s banner better, keeping the businesses in it at their sharpest. New entrants into the aviation industry can receive many opportunities to learn about business. The FABA and the NATA can be seen at work at their annual conventions. Both organizations continue to protect aviation.
The US has the greatest general aviation community in the world by a huge margin. Other countries have pilots pay to talk to an Air Traffic Controller. Here, it is free. Other countries have pilots file a flight plan for every single flight. Here, it is your choice. Other countries have pilots seek government approval for a flight. In the US, it is not necessary. Our industry enjoys a freedom that others only dream of having. The rules and practices in other countries have made private aviation almost, if not, impossible. These practices rob their economies of a valuable resource and keep potential pilots from training in their own countries.
The FABA community is, in one word, amazing. The community has a unified approach where all the stakeholders, from suppliers to airport sponsors to FBOs, share a, motto of, ‘we are all together in this spirit.’ The cooperation among the landlords and their tenants, competitors in aviation services, and businesses normally not associated with general aviation business, all coalesce in a united effort to make the industry better. There is much future potential in the aviation industry. Light Sport Aircraft are promising affordable flying for pilots. Fuel demands are stimulating requests for more efficient engines, as well as causing manufacturers to consider diesel and electric engines. The demand for pilots is ever increasing. Pilot schools will have good business for the next several few decades. So FABA will be here as long as there is business, and business is looking good.
Matthew Torres was born in New Jersey and raised on Long Island. He spent his youth reading too much and excelling in his studies. His first flight was out of Orlando Executive Airport in the summer of 2013. Since then, he has earned his private pilot’s license and instrument rating. Currently, he is a sophomore at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University studying Aeronautical Science where he is on the College of Aviation Dean’s List. Torres hopes to graduate and become an Air Force Pilot through Air Force ROTC.