Hot Topics for Bizav in 2020 see more
NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares the top-five challenges in business aviation for 2020.
The U.S. finished 2019 at the top of the world of business aircraft transactions and it is well-positioned to continue its leadership this year. Of course, every year presents important challenges and there are five that I believe will affect many aircraft owners, lessors, lenders, managers, insurance and buy/sell brokers, technical consultants, and other industry participants in 2020. Here are my top-five challenges for this year:
ETHICAL BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS
The International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) expects its member brokers and other aircraft transaction professionals to abide by professional standards and ethics rules under IADA’s code of ethics. To put its standards into practice, among other steps, IADA admits new members under an accreditation process administered by an independent outside firm.
IADA is far from alone in its important efforts. By issuing its statement regarding ethical conduct, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) strongly asserts that every member company should use these guidelines to enforce high levels of ethical behavior, safety, integrity, accountability, and respect for others. NATA urges its diverse general aviation members to use these guidelines to enforce compliance and deter wrongdoing. Further, NBAA published ethical business aviation transactions guidelines to establish core ethics and business conduct standards in transactions between buyers and sellers of business aircraft products and services.
It’s no secret that some industry participants believe others act outside such ethical guidelines. Still, each person has a new opportunity in 2020 to renew his or her efforts to play by the applicable rules urged on them by their respective associations regardless of inconsistent or questionable behavior of others.
After seeing the FAA take multiple actions against illegal charters in 2019, you might conclude that illegal charter operations will be unstoppable in 2020. Not so.
In my experience, most charter and on-demand flight services operate legally, will happily demonstrate their capabilities, and explain how they comply with the FARs. Unfortunately, other operators test the limits or flat out operate illegally in violation of the FARs.
The FAA focuses on safety and enforces the FARs. Two big buckets of rules in the FARs, among others, cover legal operation of business aircraft: private flight operations under FAR Part 91 and commercial or on-demand flight operations under FAR Part 135.
A Part 135-compliant operator must obey stringent operational, training, and other rules designed to assure passenger safety. Part 91, not so much; an operator has fewer requirements under the FARs in part because they do not, if in compliance, transport persons or property for compensation or hire as permitted for certified operators under Part 135.
Anyone, including prospective passengers, can help curb illegal flight operations in 2020 by doing modest diligence on charter operations you observe or might use. For example, as a prospective passenger, you can potentially identify violators, reporting your concerns to the FAA and taking your charter business elsewhere. NATA’s website posts a hotline telephone number for customers or others to report violators.
One tell-tale sign of a potential problem might appear if the price of a flight is much lower than one provided by another operator. Although that may be good news for your wallet, it might also reveal an illegal operation that lowers its prices to edge out operators that incur higher costs to comply with FAR Part 135.
If a charter operator tells you, or you discover, that you, and not the charter operator, will exercise “operational control” of the flight, that is a red flag warning of a potential illegal charter operation under the FARs. Operational control means you will be responsible for the initiation, conduct, and termination of the flight (14 CFR 1.1), a position that puts you in the personal liability hotseat should certain things go wrong with the flight.
Although a bit different than illegal charter, I have seen and discussed with many colleagues illegal private operations under Part 91 categorically called “flight department companies.” Often taking the form of limited liability companies (LLCs), LLC members sometimes erroneously believe that the LLC, which has no business enterprise, can operate its aircraft and receive “compensation” from family, friends, associates, or others that “borrow” or “use” the LLC’s aircraft.
Compensation is a very broad term in the FAA’s view and occurs in many ways, including when passengers share expenses or reimburse the LLC for aircraft operating costs. With very limited exceptions, these flight operations are illegal, prohibited under the FARs, and subject to FAA enforcement action.
Expect both illegal charter and flight department company operations to be on the FAA’s radar in 2020, likely more so than you have ever seen before.
BONUS DEPRECIATION AND OTHER TAX PLANNING
A buyer committed to purchasing an aircraft should make a New Year’s resolution to analyze primary tax aspects of owning, operating, and storing the aircraft, and tax minimization structures, ideally, before signing a letter of intent to buy an aircraft. This analysis should at least cover federal income, state sales/use, and local property taxes to calculate the total tax costs of, or potential tax write-offs with respect to, acquisition and ownership of an aircraft.
Typically, clients start with questions on claiming 100 percent “bonus depreciation,” which continues to be available in 2020. For this year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allows aircraft owners, with limitations for personal use, temporarily to take 100 percent bonus depreciation deductions on new and preowned aircraft against gross income if the taxpayer uses the aircraft in its trade or business or for production of income. (For more, see AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 and AINsight: 100% Depreciation and Aircraft Personal Use.)
Early in the buying experience, many buyers also express an understandable aversion to paying any property, sales, or use tax—and often believe they can avoid these taxes entirely. It is imperative to consider recent changes in law and tax rates that came into effect on January 1 and how to eliminate or reduce these taxes.
To advance your planning, determine the expected storage/hangar location(s), project the use outside of the aircraft’s home state, and consider various structures to lease your aircraft. Also, determine if or when local tax law imposes an annual property tax on the aircraft for possible tax planning relating to the location of your aircraft on that date. Using all this information, talk with your advisors for structures and strategies that may defer, allocate, eliminate, or otherwise minimize the property, sales, and use taxes.
Once a purchase closes, always keep accurate, clear, complete, and contemporaneous records on relevant tax-oriented facts for all federal, state, and local tax authorities. Don’t wait for an audit letter to update your books.
ADS-B OUT PRIVACY
The ADS-B technology mandate, which became effective January 1, has great merit for safety, flight communications accuracy, and other reasons.
However, private third-parties can—using inexpensive, commercially available receivers—pick up the aircraft’s broadcast of its unique ICAO address and thereby capture information directly from ADS-B transmissions that an aircraft operator might prefer to remain confidential. Such information includes an aircraft’s identification, altitude, GPS positional data, and velocity.
To address these privacy concerns, ADS-B operators should quickly evaluate and, if using 1090-MHz ADS-B equipment, decide whether to participate in the FAA’s Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program, starting this month. In December, the FAA established an application process for operators to use and periodically change temporary ICAO aircraft addresses that aren’t tied to an operator in the Civil Aviation Registry (CAR).
The PIA program is limited to U.S. domestic operations to avoid potential conflicts with other ICAO member states that currently do not offer this capability. That means privacy breaches might still occur on flight operations outside the U.S.
The PIA program differs from the FAA’s new Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) program. Operators that do not wish to allow the FAA to share aircraft data the FAA receives, including tail number, call sign, and flight number, can submit LADD requests via FAA’s dedicated LADD website. The LADD program, which replaces the Block Aircraft Registry Request (BARR) program, does not impact the ADS-B broadcast data, which, as noted, transmits information directly to capable receivers.
For maximum privacy domestically in the U.S., sign up for both the PIA and LADD programs.
INSURANCE TURBULENCE FOR OWNERS, OPERATORS, LESSORS, AND LENDERS
If you plan to buy or renew insurance coverage in 2020, buckle up. Plagued by years of huge payouts and financial losses, some insurers have exited the market, resulting in reduced liability insurance capacity for all aircraft and much higher premiums (anecdotally, 20 percent to up to 300 percent of 2019 rates).
The best operators should still be able to maintain or even improve coverage in 2020 at higher premiums provided their insurers agree that the customers have a stellar safety record, outstanding training programs, and experienced pilots with high hours in the type of aircraft insured by the carrier. The story is different for single-pilot, owner/operated aircraft or new pilots who might not be able to find insurance at any price or, if insurance is available, must accept reduced liability limits at higher premiums than in 2019.
Lenders and lessors might have a different predicament. From transactional activity in 2019, it seems financiers generally required and successfully obtained yesteryear’s high liability insurance limits. In 2020, lenders and lessors may have to ease back on their demands for such high liability insurance levels and concentrate more on property damage coverage.
In supporting this easing, lenders and lessors can point to a 2018 federal law amendment that might facilitate approving transactions with reduced liability insurance limits. Under 49 U.S. Code § 44112, Limitation of liability, Congress provided a preemptory shield of business aircraft lessors and lenders from personal injury and property damage liability if they do not have possession or control over the aircraft at the time of the accident.
Customers should contact specialized aviation insurance brokers well before signing a purchase agreement in 2020, to allow much more time than the week before closing to find insurance with the best terms and lowest cost. (For more, see AINsight: Limiting Risk as Liability Insurance Tightens.)
Amid the many challenges that business aviation will face in 2020, rather than debate the topics above for long, it is more important to take action now and throughout the new decade for the benefit of clients, customers, and colleagues involved in the business aviation industry. Will you take action and suggest others do too?
This article was originally published by AINonline on January 10, 2020.
David Norton, with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses ADS-B Out & RVSM airspace. see more
NAFA member, David Norton, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses ADS-B Out and RVSM airspace.
The FAA just made your life a little easier. As of January 22, if your aircraft is properly equipped with ADS-B Out, you are automatically authorized to fly in domestic RVSM airspace.
What Does That Mean?
A key air traffic control function is to keep aircraft safely separated. A basic way of doing so is to have aircraft fly at different altitudes. But this works only if everyone’s aircraft altimeter – the instrument that tells you your altitude – is accurate. Altimeters originally were very accurate at lower altitudes; less so the higher you flew. So the norm was for air traffic control (ATC) to instruct different aircraft to fly at specific altitudes that were at least 1,000 feet apart from each other when flying below 28,000 feet, and at least 2,000 feet apart when flying above 28,000 feet.
That would ensure enough of a safety buffer between what the altimeter was saying and what the aircraft’s actual altitude might be, to be sure two airplanes were not inadvertently flying at the same altitude (even if their instruments said they were 2,000 feet apart) when above 28,000 feet. But flying above 28,000 feet, where half as much airspace is available, typically is where you want your jet aircraft to be in order to maximize air speed and fuel efficiency.
By the early 2000s, technology had improved to the point that ATC could begin to use only a 1,000 foot separation above 28,000 feet (thus doubling the airspace available to jet aircraft), but this would work only if all aircraft in that airspace had the new, more accurate technology. The FAA therefore issued a rule stating that if an operator wanted to fly in this newly “reduced vertical separation minimum” (RVSM) airspace, that is, the airspace above 28,000 feet and below 43,000 feet, then specific permission was needed.
If the operator demonstrated an ability to meet all applicable technical requirements, the FAA would grant a “letter of authorization” (LOA). Periodically, the operator would have to fly over specific ground stations able to measure the actual altitude of the aircraft, to confirm that the technology was actually working. Unfortunately, the ongoing problem has been that obtaining these LOAs can be extremely difficult and time consuming, and you can’t cruise in RVSM airspace until you have one.
During the last ten years, however, two key things have happened. First, most of today’s aircraft meet all of the original RVSM requirements. Second has been the simultaneous development of a much larger, more comprehensive set of technologies to significantly improve the overall safety and efficiency of the U.S. air traffic control system.
Key to this effort is “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out” (ADS-B Out), which is much more accurate than ground-based radar, and which allows the FAA to track very accurately the aircraft’s actual position, altitude, velocity, identification, etc. – in real time. Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.225 governing ADS-B Out equipment and use requires that all aircraft operating in U.S. airspace have a certified GPS position source teamed with a transponder that is capable of automatically transmitting data from the aircraft to the ATC without input from the pilot. ADS-B also gives pilots immediate access to air traffic and weather services.
To its great credit, the FAA realized that, as aircraft operators install this new ADS-B Out technology, it can safely and automatically grant permission to those operators to fly in domestic RVSM airspace. This saves both the FAA and each operator an enormous amount of time and energy, reducing paperwork and processing requirements, while maintaining a higher level of safety, better situational awareness, and more efficient, direct routing.
The new RVSM rule is a further great incentive to encourage you to install ADS-B Out in your aircraft before the January 1, 2020 deadline.
This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP on March 11, 2019.
Ongoing Privacy Concerns with Implementation of ADS-B see more
NAFA member, Amanda Applegate, Partner with Aerlex Law Group, discusses ADS-B and privacy concerns.
ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast. By January 1, 2020, the majority of aircraft operating within the United States will be required to have ADS-B Out capabilities – and for aircraft registered internationally, some compliance deadlines are even sooner. Aircraft lacking ADS-B Out capabilities after that date will be effectively grounded or severely limited in where and how they can fly – perhaps for months!
The ADS-B Out requirements are just one element of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which is being implemented in phases between 2012 and 2025. The purpose of NextGen is to transform America’s antiquated air traffic control (ATC) system from a radar-based system to a satellite based system.
What is ADS-B Out? ADS-B is technology that uses an airplane’s onboard global positioning system (GPS) to transmit the current position, speed, flight number and, most importantly, whether the airplane is climbing, descending or turning. The current radar-based system is not able to recognize and process information regarding climb, descent or turns. The transmitted information is sent to ATC and other aircraft. The current radar system sends updates once every two to twelve seconds. However, aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities transmit data every second. So, not only do the transmitted updates contain more information, including data on climb, descent and turns, but the updates also take place far more frequently.
Upgrading the system on an aircraft to incorporate ADS-B Out capabilities allows both ATC and pilots of other aircraft with ADS-B In to see the aircraft nearest to them with a graphical representation. While Traffic Alert and Collison Avoidance Systems (TCAS) currently provide some of this information, the additional data generated by ADS-B Out will make the information far more accurate.
With ADS-B Out equipped aircraft broadcasting not just their flight plans but their current position, speed, and flight number, aircraft can be tracked much easier. While there are many advantages to ADS-B Out, using this newly available information means it is easier for the world to know who is flying where.
There are two important steps that can be taken in order to minimize the public disclosure of aircraft locations:
1. Ownership structure. Using options such as a finance lease, owner trust or sole purpose entity to hold title could help preserve anonymity if structured properly.
2. Registration Number Blocking. In 2013 the FAA issued a notice that allows owners and operators to limit the display of aircraft situation display to industry (ASDI) data. Owners and operators can request the blocking of the flight tracking information. While this does not include data now available because of ADS-B, it can help. The process for opting out of this flight data feed can be found here:
While many associations, including National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) have been vocal about the privacy concerns linked to ADS-B data, a solution is not known or planned for the immediate future. As a result, planning and implementing a favorable ownership structure at the time an aircraft is purchased has become more important, as well as taking advantage of registration number blocking made available by the FAA.
Please contact Amanda Applegate at 310-392-5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, July 2019, Volume 29, No. 7., August 13, 2019.