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ACI NEWS Last modified on November 22, 2012

ACI-NA president Greg Principato: Time for change

ACI-NA president, Greg Principato, reflects on the challenges and opportunities facing airports in Canada and the USA.

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) remains committed to advancing North American airport initiatives and providing resources, programmes, and value for its members in the United States and Canada. 

Despite the uncertain economy and pressures of airline consolidation and reduced air service, ACI-NA has been successful in tackling challenges and achieving many of its goals this year. 

ACI-NA’s dedicated and experienced staff in Washington and Ottawa represent the interests of its members before national and international legislators and regulators as well as the trade media. Below you will find several initiatives that ACI-NA continues to advance on behalf of its members.

Call for US aviation policy
On both sides of the North American border, it has become evident that government policies are inadequate to keep up with the innovation and investment occurring in so many other countries around the world.

That is why ACI-NA has been working hard to educate legislators, the business community and others that a new policy framework is needed in the United States and Canada; one that recognises airports’ important role as critical economic engines and recognises the need to build and be well prepared for a globally competitive industry.

Additionally, the US office this year launched an ambitious Airports for the Future campaign to make the case for local empowerment for airports, providing long-term financial stability and flexibility and adequate funding sources to make the necessary infrastructure investments to serve passengers and their communities. 

Fact sheets, presentation templates and videos have been developed to help get the word out in communities throughout the United States about the economic importance of airports in generating commerce and jobs, as well as addressing the challenges airports face under the current federally-mandated system.

While the materials are oriented for the US market, many of the messages, such as the importance of airports for generating jobs and enhancing economic development, are also true for Canadian airports.

Competitiveness of the Canadian aviation system
Canadian Airports Council (CAC), now an integral part of ACI-NA, successfully worked with the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on their report on the future growth and global competitiveness of Canada’s Airports, called The Future of Canadian Air Travel: Toll Booth or Spark Plug? It recommends that Transport Canada establish and implement a plan to phase out ground rents.

Improving facilitation and Customs and Border Protection staffing
The White House recently released a 180-day progress report on meeting President Obama’s goal to expand travel and tourism to the United States. We are pleased that the progress report explicitly recognised the leadership role of ACI-NA and our members in enhancing the US passenger travel experience.

As a part of that work, ACI-NA has been successful in working with the US government to improve the visa process. The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has added staff, hired temporary duty officers, improved facilities and increased programme flexibility. And, despite huge increases in applications in Brazil and China this year, the recent wait times at US consulates have significantly declined. 

ACI-NA’s efforts to obtain funding for additional CBP officers for US and Canadian pre-clearance airports was successful with the US Senate and House Homeland appropriations bill providing funding for 21,186 CBP officers, sustaining the highest staffing levels in CBP’s history.

Baggage screening
For years, a top ACI-NA priority has been to eliminate the unnecessary and duplicative rescreening of checked baggage arriving in the United States from pre-clearance airports. We have recently seen progress on both the regulatory and legislative front on this important issue.

The United States-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan included a provision to eliminate the requirement to rescreen checked baggage arriving from Canadian pre-clearance airports, due to the advocacy of both the Washington, DC and Ottawa offices. We successfully made the case that rescreening connecting checked baggage drains limited resources and inconveniences passengers without providing meaningful security benefits. We combined common sense answers with empirical data – and worked with the airlines – to address this important issue.

Recently, ACI-NA’s lobbying resulted in legislation being passed in the US House of Representatives to provide TSA the discretion to determine whether or not to rescreen checked baggage on pre-cleared flights.
We are working for passage of similar legislation in the US Senate.

Originally constituted by ACI-NA, the In-Depth Security Review (IDSR) meets frequently with senior representatives of TSA Legal, Compliance and Policy officials, to formally evaluate and discuss potential modification or elimination of certain airport security requirements.

Working through IDSR, ACI-NA recommended the incorporation of ‘sunset dates’ in Security Directives, something that has prompted TSA to conduct a review of expiring Security Directives rather than keep them in place indefinitely.

In addition to the flexible application of security measures afforded to airports as a result of ACI-NA’s leadership within the IDSR, ACI-NA continues to advocate for the transition to performance-based airport security measures.

Irregular operations, planning and winter services
ACI-NA served as the industry’s voice in high-profile workshops sponsored by the US Department of Transportation and the FAA regarding how the industry can and should respond when adverse winter weather conditions or other irregular events result in extended tarmac delays.

Working to bring key airport representatives to the table in these forums, ACI-NA ensured that airports’ roles and responsibilities during irregular operations events were correctly characterised. 

In the wake of new statutory requirements, ACI-NA developed an emergency contingency plans template for both member and non-member airports alike to use, significantly reducing compliance burdens for airport operators. 

Finally, through direct involvement with the FAA Office of Airports, FAA Air Traffic Organization, and the airlines, ACI-NA has been leading collaborative efforts to improve communications and coordination during irregular operations events.

ACI-NA’s Ottawa office successfully influenced changes to the Transport Canada Winter Maintenance and Planning regulations, resulting in reduced airport costs and improvement in the safety and efficiency of winter operations, ultimately reducing delays and better serving passengers.

Airport design standards and other regulatory activities
Through both our US and Canadian Divisions, ACI-NA has worked extensively with both the FAA and Transport Canada to ensure proposed changes in airport design standards, advisory guidance, and regulations are practicable, implementable, and necessary. 

We have pushed back on one-size fits all regulatory actions like impracticable runway end safety area requirements in Canada and problematic new taxiway design standards in the United States. 

We have also argued for narrowed scope, better guidance and tangible data and liability protections regarding the airport safety management systems programme. 

In the US, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) was preparing to impose onerous rules on airports regarding discharge of stormwater and de-icing fluids. The original proposal would have imposed costly and unnecessary burdens on the industry.

Working with the airlines, ACI-NA developed a voluntary, industry-led programme that will yield important environmental benefits in a way that is manageable for airports. The EPA endorsed this voluntary programme, and finalised a rule this past spring that did not impose national regulations for aircraft de-icing fluid discharges.

NextGen and airports
ACI-NA has established itself as the representative for airports in the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System development and implementation efforts. Through ACI-NA’s leadership, it has been established that airports must have seats at the table as FAA proceeds with NextGen deployment. 

ACI-NA efforts have led to airport representation on the NextGen Advisory Committee and an airport-centric deployment effort that is focused on enhancing operational efficiency at and near congested airports.

Representation on world committees
ACI-NA continues to work with ACI World on a variety of safety, operational, and planning issues. Through the ACI World’s Safety & Technical Standing Committee, ACI-NA has been closely monitoring and actively participating in the development of ICAO’s Aviation System Block Upgrades programme, ICAO’s version of NextGen. 

ACI-NA staff have also been actively involved in the development of ACI World’s Airport Excellence in Safety (APEX) programme, which provides assistance for ACI members to improve their level of safety and compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.

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