There were two principal reasons for the formation of the trade association. The initial stimulus was the enactment of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. By that Act, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) began, for the first time, to regulate the economic affairs of the non-scheduled airline industry (previously known as the Supplemental Airlines).
The scheduled airlines had been under economic regulation since the signing of the Civil Aeronautics Act in 1938. Just as the threat of that act caused the scheduled airlines to form the Air Transport Association of America in 1935, the FAA Act caused the soon-to-be-regulated nonscheduled air carriers to found a trade association (NACA) to represent their best interests in the new regulatory environment.
The second reason for forming NACA was to maintain a strong relationship with the Department of Defense (DOD). Because the FAA Act required Supplemental Airlines to be certificated, the DOD decided to only contract its passenger and cargo air transportation services to certificated air carriers. Many of the Supplemental Airlines depended upon DOD charter business for their livelihood, thus the issue of continuing DOD business was an equally important stimulus in the formation of NACA. Many of NACA’s initial Articles of Incorporation include the connection with DOD business. Indeed, approval for DOD business was an initial requirement for membership in NACA, and all members were members of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).
Many of the changes to CRAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s were debated and agreed upon between NACA, its members, and DOD. NACA’s members constituted the backbone of commercial air carrier support during the Vietnam conflict. One of NACA’s members, World Airways, was the last commercial air carrier to fly from Saigon during its fall in 1975.
In 1972, NACA was one of the initial members appointed to the National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA) Military Airlift Committee. This Committee was established as an official government advisory group to assist the Commander-in-Chief, Military Airlift Command, and, later, the Commander-in-Chief United States Transportation Command, to better understand the commercial aviation community and how civilian air carriers could better supply air transportation needs to the Department of Defense.
Prior to the establishment of NACA, the initial statement of the relationship between civilian and military airlift activities were embodied in a document called The Role of Military Air Transport Service in Peace and War. With the many changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s and throughout the Vietnam conflict, NACA’s members felt that the nation needed a restatement of the civilian and military airlift relationship.
At NACA’s suggestion, an effort was undertaken by the NDTA Military Airlift Committee to restate the relationship between civilian and military airlift. The product of that effort was a new National Airlift Policy, signed by President Ronald Reagan in July 1987 and issued as National Security Defense Directive 280. That document was further implemented in the Department of Defense with the publication of the Department of Defense Transportation Policy signed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney on May 22, 1990. It recognized DOD’s “unique relationship with the transportation industry, depending on the civil sector for transport of more than 85 percent of its needs in wartime and well over 90 percent in peacetime.”
NACA’s member carriers were essential to the early and sustained success of the United States military in the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm) in 1990 and 1991. NACA’s members were the first to volunteer to assist DOD as soon as the Iraqi invasion was discovered and more than a week before CRAF was activated. On August 8, 1990, World Airways, a NACA founding member, landed the first commercial airlift of U.S. troops to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia. American Trans Air, Evergreen, Southern Air Transport, and Tower offered similar early and frequent volunteer airlift. Early in the Operation, American Trans Air offered all of its long-range fleet DOD if DOD would promise to keep them gainfully occupied. NACA member carriers offered continuing strong support throughout the following year of operations, with members American Trans Air, Evergreen, Southern Air Transport, Tower Air, and World Airways flying more than 1500 of the approximately 5000 commercial missions to and from the Arabian Peninsula.
NACA has always championed the role of commercial aviation in national defense, but its role has always been much broader. On the civil side, NACA was a leader in getting expanded passenger and cargo charter authority through congressional, regulatory, and legal pressures. For example, NACA was directly responsible for getting U.S. Government approval for Affinity Charters in the era between 1962 and 1974. It also lead the fight in the courts and through Congress to get approval for Inclusive Tour Charters in 1967 and 1968. In 1970, NACA was also successful in getting additional authority for its members through the concept of Advanced Booking Charters.
In 1972, NACA was installed as a permanent member of the U.S. delegation for negotiating all bilateral aviation agreements with foreign countries. Since that time, NACA has been successful in gaining expanded international economic authority for its members, including liberal passenger and cargo charter authority and designation of member carriers on several important international scheduled service routes.
In 1977, NACA was instrumental in the deregulation of the U.S. cargo airline industry. Later, in 1978, NACA was the leadoff witness in the Senate Judiciary Committee and subsequently in the Senate Commerce Committee in support of total domestic airline deregulation.
In 1978, the CAB terminated all airline ticket ratemaking activities, including ratemaking for military operations. NACA’s Board of Directors predicted that a lowest bidder process would develop for military charter rates that would ultimately lead to fewer aircraft available to the DOD in the CRAF. Thus, NACA led its member airlines in a protest to the CAB of deregulating military fares. This initiative was unsuccessful. The fight was then carried to the Secretary of the Air Force, stressing the importance of continuing the previous CAB practice of setting minimum rates. This effort was successful, and, to this day, DOD continues to pay for its whole airplane passenger and cargo charters through a Uniform Rate that is based upon the old CAB ratemaking process.
Since its formation, NACA has always been a strong team member with the U.S. Government and a positive influence in the promulgation of public laws and regulations that govern the safety and efficiency of the airline industry. Today, NACA is a trade association serving U.S. air carriers that provide scheduled and nonscheduled passenger and cargo operations domestically and internationally. NACA and its member air carriers are well known in national and international aviation circles.