April 24, 2014
Jeff Turner, Doc’s Friends Chairman, and Tony Mazzolini, who found the deteriorating B-29 and brought it back to its birthplace, will give an update on its restoration and share their plans for its eventual return to the sky at the Wichita Aero Club May luncheon on Monday, May 12, 2014. Later in the day, there will also be a reception at the hangar on the east side of South Oliver, opposite the Spirit AeroSystems headquarters where the Wichita-built B-29, dubbed “Doc” is being restored.
The airplane was originally part of a squadron named for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It is being restored by volunteers, many of whom worked on B-29s at the Boeing Wichita plant during World War II and the Korean Conflict. An afternoon Open House, for luncheon attendees and their guests, will provide visitors with the opportunity to see Doc firsthand and learn more about how to support the restoration efforts. It will include a cocktail reception and photo opportunities, as well as a brief press conference.
The Wichita Aero Club luncheon will be held in the Doubletree Hilton at Wichita Airport Emerald Ballroom from noon until 1:30 PM. Tickets for the luncheon are $30 for WAC members and $40 for non-members. Both it and the evening reception are open to the public. The afternoon Open House will begin at 4:00 p.m. and will run until 6:30 p.m. at Doc’s Hangar. The press briefing featuring Jeff Turner, Tony Mazzolini and members of the volunteer team that is working on Doc will begin at approximately 4:30 P.M.
“This presentation by Doc’s Friends will provide the Aero Club with fascinating details about Doc’s history, the renovation process and the future plans for the B-29,” said Dave Franson, President of the Wichita Aero Club. “We are also excited to have to opportunity to see Doc and hear the back story of this airplane, it’s previous service and the plans for its return to the skies in the not-too-distant future.”
Doc’s story began in March of 1945 at the Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas. Originally built by the Boeing Company in 1945, the B-29-20-BW, or B-29 Superfortress, was a one-of-a-kind airplane. The B-29 was designed and built by Boeing in Wichita and flown primarily by the U.S. Air Force at the end of World War II and then during the Korean War.
In 1987, after sitting more than 40 years in the Mojave Desert where it was a sun baked sanctuary for birds and many other desert creatures, Doc was rescued by a group of historians with a dream. The group, led by Tony Mazzolini and backed by the United States Aviation Museum, had a plan to restore the B-29 and eventually get it back into the air. It was transported from the desert to Wichita in 2000, where work began to restore it to flying status. A group of Wichita business leaders founded Doc’s Friends in early 2013 with a vision to see the historic Boeing B-29 Superfortress restored to flying condition.
A new non-profit group, Doc’s Friends has taken ownership of the airplane and is leading the effort to refurbish the vintage airplane. It is believed that Doc is the last known Boeing B-29 Superfortress that is in restorable condition.
The founding Board of Directors for Doc’s Friends includes Wichita Aero Club members Jeff Turner, Lynn Nichols, Jeff Peier, Tom Bertels, Charlie Chandler, Jack Pelton and Ron Ryan, as well as Tim Buchanan, Steve Clark, and Brad Gorsuch.
In February of 2013, the airplane was moved from a storage hangar to its current active hangar space donated by Boeing. This has allowed volunteers to resume work to restore the aircraft. The luncheon and Open House on May 12 will also provide information on how to volunteer to work on Doc or donate to Doc’s Friends. Additional information is available on the organization’s website, www.b-29doc.com.
April 14, 2014
- From Highway 254 go south on Andover Road
- Take Andover Road to 40th Street
- Turn left on 40th Street and go 1.25 miles
- Jim Lee’s hangar has an observation tower and will be located on the left
Flowers may be sent to Lee Aerospace until Tuesday afternoon.
9323 E 34th Street N | Wichita, KS 67226
Pete Reynolds Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Also, please don’t forget about Pete’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday, April 15. The event is scheduled from 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM and will take place at the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Boulevard in Wichita. It will include a reception followed by the induction of Mr. Reynolds into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, which is housed in the KAM facility.
April 7, 2014
The Wichita Aero Club will team with the Kansas Aviation Museum (KAM) to host a special event surrounding the induction of Pete Reynolds, former Bombardier test pilot, on the evening of Tuesday, April 15. The event, scheduled from 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM will take place at the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Boulevard in Wichita. It will include a reception followed by the induction of Mr. Reynolds into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, which is housed in the KAM facility. The no-cost event is open to the public.
“This event is being held to provide the local community with the opportunity to experience some aviation history first hand and honor a local figure who helped make it,” said Dave Franson, president of the Wichita Aero Club. “We’re very pleased to be collaborating with the Kansas Aviation Museum to host this reception and induction ceremony for Pete Reynolds, who participated in the establishment of so many Learjet milestones during his long career as a test pilot. Pete epitomizes the vision and courage that all of us in the industry assign to test pilots. He’s a terrific pilot who flew numerous first flights and also established a number of time-to-climb and performance records with Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. We hope lots of Pete’s friends and colleagues will be able to join us for this occasion at the Musuem.
“This event is part of the WAC’s efforts to expand our activities and include more members of the aviation and local community. We’re also hoping to encourage more support and involvement in the Aero Club and the Kansas Aviation Museum through this effort, as well,” Franson concluded.
Pete Reynolds had a major role in the development, testing and certification of virtually every Learjet model for more than 3 decades. A decorated Air Force pilot in the 1970s, he joined Learjet in 1973. He spent the last eight years of his tenure with Bombardier Aerospace as the Vice President of Flight Test, during which he was responsible for managing 500 employees and all flight tests conducted on Canadair, deHavilland and Learjet products. He is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and, in 1999, received the organization’s prestigious J.H. Doolittle Award for outstanding accomplishments in aerospace engineering and technical management. He flew eight first flights (on virtually every Learjet Model from the 24E to the 40) and holds numerous FAI World Records. Five of those were set with Neil Armstrong in Learjet 28-001 on February 19 and 20, 1979 for time to climb, altitude, and altitude in horizontal flight. He has flown more than 12,000 hours and was a 1992 Kansas Governor’s Aviation Honors recipient.
January 28, 2014
The Wichita Aero Club (WAC) announced at its annual Trophy Gala on Saturday evening, January 25 that it is creating a scholarship for college or post graduate students in honor of former Cessna Public Relations Chief Dean Humphrey. The scholarship is the second created by the WAC and targeted at students who aspire to a career in aviation. The Aero Club’s other scholarship, named for former General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and International Civil Aviation Organization Ambassador Edward W. Stimpson, also provides financial assistance to college students who have declared a major or established a career path for a broad range of disciplines within the aerospace industry.
“The Wichita Aero Club Dean Humphrey Scholarship will not only honor Dean’s memory but is designed to support students who wish to follow his example into communications, administrative or other non-technical roles in aviation-related organizations,” said Dave Franson, President of the Wichita Aero Club. .”It especially fitting that it was unveiled at the fourth annual Wichita Aero Club Trophy Gala which honored Cessna Aircraft Company Chairman Emeritus Russ Meyer because Russ and Dean were colleagues and great friends throughout their time together at Cessna.”
“Dean was an exceptional communicator…and a valued friend and mentor to me when I worked for him at Cessna in the 1970’s,” Franson added. “He set the standard by which communicators in our industry were measured and it’s very gratifying to be able to honor his memory in this way. Our Education Committee will work with the Wichita Community Foundation to create the application and disseminate information on this award during the next few months and we will announce the first winner at the annual NBAA Convention in October. Like the WAC’s Ed Stimpson scholarship, the initial Dean Humphrey award will provide $2,000 to the recipient. Our intention is to increase both the amount and frequency of both these scholarships as time goes on,” he concluded. The Wichita Trophy Gala and the annual WAC Golf Classic are held each year to grow the Club’s scholarship fund.
Born in Topeka, Kansas Dean Humphrey graduated from Holton High School. His resume included serving as the Vice President of Public Relations for Cessna Aircraft Company, and as spokesperson for King Radio before that. Earlier in his career, he earned rave reviews as a broadcaster on both radio and television for KCMO in Kansas City. Four years in the Air Force and a journalism degree from Kansas University also helped shape him. But, those impressive credentials and his deep, distinctive voice aside, what made Dean outstanding was the way he made people comfortable around him. Whether dealing with inquisitive and even aggressive journalists, aircraft customers, elected officials, or helping to put on the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, Dean utilized creativity, disarming humor and attentiveness to put people at ease. He had a scholar’s grasp of the language and vocabulary, but he was a master at conveying facts in an efficient and understandable way that engendered well-deserved trust. When it came to representing his company, sharing information, or organizing the response to any situation, no one did it better than Dean. When he retired from Cessna in 1993 he was honored with the National Business Aviation Association’s Order of the Silk Scarf, presented for significant contributions to general aviation.
The Wichita Aero Club was established in 2008 to foster and promote interest in aviation, provide a forum focused on the industry’s issues and achievements and bring together those with a passion for flight in an environment that expands and enhances professional relationships and furthers cooperation and understanding. One of its primary goals is to encourage education, training and career development in aviation.
January 2, 2014
Wichita Aero Club Trophy Will Be Presented to Cessna Chairman Emeritus Russ Meyer!
Fourth annual award will be presented at Annual Gala on January 25, 2014.
Wichita, KS, October 22, 2013: The Wichita Aero Club announced today that the fourth annual Wichita Aero Club Trophy will be presented to former Cessna Aircraft Company Chairman Russell W. Meyer, Jr. Mr. Meyer was selected by the Club’s Selection Committee from among fifteen nominees. The WAC Trophy will be presented at the Wichita Aero Club’s annual Trophy Gala at the Doubletree Hilton Wichita Airport on the evening of Saturday, January 25, 2014.
“The selection of Russ Meyer for this award surprises no one,” noted Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club President. “Russ’s contributions to the aviation industry and to the local community are so numerous and so extensive that it would take a book just to list them. He is, without question, a great choice for the Wichita Aero Club Trophy,” he added.
The citation which accompanied the nomination read:
During his more than 25 years as CEO of Cessna Aircraft, Russ Meyer not only led the company to pre-eminence in the global business jet industry, but his industry leadership has been proclaimed as the most far-reaching and effective in the history of general aviation.
For nearly 40 years Russ Meyer has been “the face” of Wichita’s heralded general aviation industry… and for very good reason. Under his tutelage Cessna Aircraft designed, developed, built and delivered more business jet aircraft, worldwide, than any other global manufacturer. Perhaps even more significantly, his community and industry achievements speak for themselves. Examples: (1) His innovative initiative to establish a training facility on East 21st street for unskilled workers led to jobs and hope for hundreds of Wichitans and their families. (2) His tireless efforts were instrumental in leading to Congress’ enactment of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which after a decade, re-opened the doors for aircraft manufacturers to effectively produce single engine aircraft, again, creating hundreds of new area jobs.
Mr. Meyer’s well-deserved national awards include: the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the Collier Trophy (twice, once jointly with Cessna), and election to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. A 14,000+ hour pilot, he is type rated in all Cessna products.
A graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, Mr. Meyer served as a Marine Corps jet fighter pilot from 1958 – 1961, practiced law in Cleveland for five years, then served as CEO of Grumman American Aviation Corporation from 1966 – 1974, before joining Cessna in 1974, rising to chairman/CEO the following year. He is also the only executive to serve as Chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Associaiton (GAMA) three times.
He was elected into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named Kansan of the Year in 1998. Mr. Meyer and his wife, Helen, have been among Wichita’s most generous philanthropists, leading and donating to causes supporting underprivileged children, education and the arts.
”We are extremely pleased to honor Russ Meyer in this way. He actually received multiple nominations for the WAC Trophy. As one of the nominations said, ‘There is no one in the history of Kansas aviation who has achieved as much for aviation and the community as has Russ Meyer. ’ We know this is one of many awards Russ has received during his extraordinary career, but we’re still looking forward to an exciting and enjoyable event in January when he is officially presented with this recognition from his many friends and neighbors in the Air Capital, ” Franson added.
The Wichita Aero Club was established in 2008 to foster and promote interest in aviation, provide a forum focused on the industry’s issues and achievements and bring together those with a passion for flight in an environment that expands and enhances professional relationships and furthers cooperation and understanding.
The WAC Trophy is awarded annually to a living person, group, or existing organization with a strong relationship to the greater Wichita area, who have distinguished him, her or themselves in the field of aviation or aerospace within the most recent calendar year or during a cumulative career of significant achievements and contributions. For more information on the Wichita Aero Club, the January 25 Gala or other Wichita Aero Club events, call 316-681-4491 or visit the WAC website at www.wichitaaeroclub.org.
Partial Summary of Russ Meyer’s Career:
Chairman, CEO and President of Cessna from 1975-2003
Named Cessna Chairman Emeritus in 2005
Chairman of the Board of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in 1974, 1982 and 1994
Chairman of the FAA’s Management Advisory Council from 2005-2008
Awarded the Collier Award twice, once in 1986 and again in 1996
Awarded the Meritorious Service Award from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in 1995
Awarded the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1995
Awarded the George S. Dively Award for Corporate Public Initiative from Harvard
University for creating Cessna’s 21st Street Training Program in Wichita
Led passage of the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Ace (GARA) that limited aircraft liability
Originated the Citation Special Olympics Airlift where Citation owners transported athletes to the National Special Olympics games
Inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1996
Named “Kansan of the Year” in 1998
Inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009
December 5, 2013
And then there were none. As the legislative calendar on Capitol Hill began to move to the right last month, the two Senators who had been invited to serve on the Wichita Aero Club’s ON AIR SUMMIT on December 16 contacted the WAC office to offer their regrets and say they wouldn’t be able to participate. Then Congressman Mike Pompeo’s Chief of Staff voiced a strong concern that the Kansas Fourth District Representative wouldn’t be able to attend, either. When that was confirmed the next day, that left only the head of the House General Aviation Caucus, Representative Sam Graves from Missouri. He held on until it became obvious that both houses of the United States Congress would be extending their schedules to be in session on Monday, December 16, 2013. And then there were none.
Regrettably, the extension of the Congressional sessions has forced the Wichita Aero Club to revise its plan to how the elected officials at it’s annual On-Air Summit at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at Wichita Airport. Instead, thanks to some eleventh hour flexibility on their part, three representatives from aviation suppliers agreed to make up the panel. Daniel McCoy, Aviation Reporter for the Wichita Business Journal will continue as the moderator of the discussion.
First sequestration and the government shutdown threatened to extend the legislative calendars in the US House and Senate…and then the problems with Obamacare created a host of unanticipated hearings and a flurry of legislation that dashed virtually any hope of seeing the Congress end its current session before December 16–the date of our ON-AIR SUMMIT. The panel, which had taken months to put together, fell victim to unpredictable circumstances. It became obvious that we were not going to be able to proceed with our plans to discuss key issues with members of the Senate and House General Aviation caucuses. While it’s very disappointing to all of us, including members who had already reserved seats for the ON-AIR SUMMIT, there is some good news, too.
We have put together a revised program that will be both interesting and informative. It will be an opportunity to hear from leaders of the companies that supply many of the components and systems used by the industry’s OEMs. We’ve heard from the senior execs of those OEMs in past ON-AIR SUMMITS so now we’ll have the chance to hear about the unique set of challenges and regulations their suppliers face and how they deal with them. Their performance definitely influences the efficiency and success of the airframe manufacturers they serve.
Making up the panel for the Supplier panel will be:
Woody Cottner, founder and vice president of engineering for Global Aviation Technologies, a Wichita-based engineering, consulting and manufacturing operation that provides aircraft owners and operators with component and avionics upgrades;
Jason Cox, Chief Technical Officer for Cox Machine, Inc., a long-time, family-owned provider of machined and fabricated parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry;
Rod Wilson, President of Air Capital Interiors which offers services ranging from complete aircraft interior refurbishments with custom designs and materials to simpler furniture and upholstery repairs.
All of these panelists are industry veterans who deal with diverse customers and concerns. They cover a broad spectrum of the general aviation industry and can offer perspectives from the other side of the supply and demand equation when compared to those of the OEM CEOs from whom we heard last year.
The Wichita Aero Club will honor existing reservations for the December 16 luncheon that were made in anticipation of the ON-AIR SUMMIT. Those wishing to change their plans or get more information on the new program can connect on-line to the Aero Club’s website at www.wichitaaeroclub.org or call 681-4471. Reservations and information can also be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost to attend the luncheon is $30 for members and $40 for non-members.
August 29, 2013
In Wichita, Kansas, we tend to take exception to being called “Fly Over Country.” Unfortunately, the entire middle of the country is often considered just the space between destinations. Contrails crisscross the skies above the Great Plains everyday. It has even been said that “Wichita” is an Indian word that means “hard to get to by airlines!” But, those of us who live and work here are quick to point out that most of the American-made airplanes making those contrails probably made their first takeoffs and landings in Wichita! For more than 100 years, airplanes have been flying over this state and for most of that time, they’ve been manufactured here, too. Thanks to companies like Beechcraft, Boeing, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna and their predecessors, TravelAir and Stearman, more than 300,000 airplanes have been built in what has come to be known as the “Air Capital of the World.” That’s more than any place else on earth–by a wide margin!
Recent developments have raised the question of whether Wichita should continue its claim to the “Air Capital” title. Boeing is nearing completion of its exodus from the city, announced in 2012, after 83 years. Hawker Beechcraft also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012, emerging in 2013 as Beechcraft Corporation, a smaller company with no jet production. Cessna and Bombardier Learjet streamlined their workforces over the past five years as orders for their airplanes and production rates declined. They’ve continued to invest in the development of new models, but their scheduled introductions have been impacted by a marketplace for light and mid-size jets that remains tentative. Even Spirit AeroSystems, which had defied the aerospace industry downturn and even increased production rates on several lines, has been forced to take significant write-offs and has laid off workers in recent months. Now, it’s pursuing divestiture of some of its programs. Working capital in the “Air Capital” is becoming more difficult to come by.
But, those factors aren’t enough to overshadow the rich history and exceptional role Wichita continues to play in the global aerospace business. Consider this:
Wichita still builds more airplanes than anywhere else in the world. We’re one of five “clusters” in the aerospace industry–Seattle, Montreal, Toulouse, France, and Dallas-Fort Worth are the others–and we still produce more airplanes than they do–combined!
Kansas’ aviation industry has a $7 billion impact on the national economy. Local manufacturers exported more than half of their production to international customers in recent years, resulting in a strong positive contribution to the nation’s balance of trade.
Kansas aircraft manufacturers shipped more than 500 airplanes worth more than $4 billion dollars in 2012.
As if that isn’t enough, Wichita continues to be the world leader in a number of other key areas:
The Wichita-based National Institute for Aviation Research and the National Center for Aviation Training are both world-class, industry-leading sites with exceptional reputations, resources, leadership and results.
The city possesses an unparalleled number of experienced, highly-trained, aviation-savvy machinists, technicians, engineers, and administrators. As a result, it’s where aviation companies not based in Kansas come to recruit workers.
With Airbus, Beechcraft, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna, and Spirit AeroSystems all resident in the community, Wichita is also home to an aerospace supplier base that numbers more than 130 companies. They currently work with airframe manufacturers based in Wichita and around the world.
Wichita State University’s College of Engineering ranks among the world’s foremost producers of aeronautical engineers.
With a century of aircraft production as part of its heritage and an exceptional manufacturing, supplier and educational base, Wichita will likely be the unrivaled Air Capital for a long time to come, even if it is located in the heart of Fly Over Country!
June 4, 2013
Southwest Airlines, the world’s most profitable and proficient airline, has inaugurated service to Wichita, Kansas…and the Air Capital of the World couldn’t be more enthusiastic. With fivedaily flights (2 to Dallas Love Field, 2 to Chicago Midway, and one to Las Vegas), Southwest has given Wichita travelers more than 500 itineraries from which to choose along its vas
t national network. The three Air Tran Airways daily flights to Atlanta that Southwest has replaced offered 180 different destinations. Southwest also flies 143-seat Boeing 737s–their fuselages are manufactured in Wichita by Spirit AeroSystems–with compared to the 117 seat Boeing 717s previously flown by Air Tran, so the number of available passenger spaces has been increased by a factor of two each day, as well.
Not only does Southwest offer exceptional service, it doesn’t charge for bags, special seating, or even change fees when fliers find their plans need to be modified to take a different flight. That’s bound to be a big plus for business and leisure travelers, alike. It also makes Wichita the departure and return location of choice among thousands of Kansans who have previously traveled to Kansas City, Missouri or Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to take advantage of Southwest’s network and pricing. As Ron Ricks, Executive Vice President for the airline said at the June 3 Wichita Aero Club luncheon following the opening of service to Wichita, SWA’s entry into Wichita means more low fares to more destinations but, “we’re counting on [the local traveling population] to act in your self-interest. If Southwest isn’t in the market, you’ll pay higher air fare. If you buy, we’ll fly, if you don’t, we won’t!”
Southwest is a great partner for Wichita and should be a great asset to the community and the state. It’s the only one of the country’s five largest airlines that hasn’t gone through bankruptcy. It’s the only one to have 40 consecutive years of profits, and the only one not to have across-the-board employee furloughs or cuts to employee benefits or wages. It’s also the only airline to have an investment-grade credit rating and it consistently scores at or near the top in customer-service rankings. It’s no wonder Wichita has worked for most of the past three decades to attract Southwest Airlines to serve this community. Now, it’s up to all of us who fly to keep them here!
May 23, 2013
Ron Ricks has been with Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines since the beginning…or awfully close to it! As a result, he probably knows more about the airline than anyone besides Herb. Southwest will begin service in Wichita on June 2–one day before Mr. Ricks addresses the Wichita Aero Club Luncheon at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel on Monday, June 3. Not only will the event be an extension of the “celebration” of Southwest’s service inauguration, it’s likely to be one of the most interesting presentations of the year.
Mr. Ricks is the Executive Vice President—Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer at Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Texas. Before joining Southwest Airlines, he was a partner in the San Antonio law firm founded by Herb Kelleher, where Ron worked extensively on the Southwest Airlines’ account. All together, Ron has represented Southwest since 1981.
His current responsibilities include oversight of the following corporate departments: General Counsel (Legal); Properties (corporate
real estate and airport relationships); and Governmental and Public Affairs; In addition, Ron is closely involved with all aspects of labor law issues as they pertain to Southwest’s relationships with its largely unionized work force.
As Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Ron serves as a liaison to Southwest’s Board of Directors with respect to the corporate governance, legal, and regulatory compliance aspects of the Board’s duties.
Presently, Ron serves on the Advisory Committee to the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development at the MITRE Corporation which leads the research and development effort on behalf of the federal government to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system. He also is a member of the Hospital Advisory Board for Methodist Dallas Medical Center, which was founded in 1927 and today is one of the largest medical facilities in the Dallas Metropolitan area.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he earned a law degree from George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.
The Wichita Aero Club was established in 2008 to foster and promote interest in aviation, provide a forum focused on the industry’s issues and achievements and bring together those with a passion for flight in an environment that expands and enhances professional relationships and furthers cooperation and understanding.
WAC Luncheons are available for $40 for non-members and $30 for members. Reservations can be made on line at the Aero Club’s website, www.wichitaaeroclub.org , or by callingl 316-681-4471.
March 4, 2013
One characteristic of government is that it seldom opts for clear communication when confusion and obfuscation are available options. Take “sequestration,” for example. It’s a heretofore relatively unheard word–and still would be–had the White House not proposed it as leverage to force Congress to compromise dealing with the nation’s fiscal irresponsibility. When Democrats proved even more stubborn than their mascot, and Republicans, likewise, displayed the nimbleness (or lack thereof) of theirs, onerous, supposedly unacceptable budget cuts were triggered on March 1. Never mind that 90% of the American populace still doesn’t know what “sequestration” means and the other 10% define it simply as “dumb!” The fact is, it’s probably not that big a deal. The President has disavowed the idea came from his White House, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Rather than offering an alternative or taking a stab at cutting the budget where it would be the least painful or relatively unnoticed, he abrogated his leadership responsibility and, instead, suggested that sequestration is really just another word for “Republican blunder.” Then he went out and blamed all the potential–and overblown–consequences on his opposition. For their part the GOP reacted like the Generally Outmaneuvered Politicians many of them are, and ran for cover.
The facts are, the sequestration cuts actually aren’t cuts at all–they’re simply limits to how much current spending can grow–and the amounts that they actually diminish that spending will take us back to roughly the same level at which the government was operating in 2008. In other words, it won’t be that bad. It actually represents paring some of this Administration’s bloated spending. The only problem, really, is that the President and his Administration are using it to try to score political points. The law he signed in 2011 gave them broad discretion on what cuts would be mandated–and they’ve had two years to work on avoiding the situation altogether or, at least, coming up with a plan that would minimize pain. The President did neither. Instead, he trotted out Cabinet Secretaries and other officials to offer non-specific solutions–all of which included increasing taxes– and spent virtually all of his non-golfing hours trying to scare the public and the opposition into caving in. Actually, while he was blaming them, he implied that the Republicans could avoid sequestration’s dire circumstances by simply “addressing it in a spirit of bipartisanship.” That’s Obama-speak for “doing it my way…or the highway!”
So how does this foolishness really impact the aviation community. The FAA has stated emphatically that safety will not be compromised as a result of the Operations funding used to comply with sequestration requirements. That said, the agency’s day-to-day operations will inevitably be impacted. It plans to furlough employees on a one day out out of every pay period (every ten business days, or two calendar weeks) basis, starting in April and continuing through at least the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30. As the National Business Aviation (NBAA) pointed out in reviewing the potential effects of sequestration, Air Traffic Control facility managers will have the flexibility to schedule those furloughs so that they have the least-intrusive impact on each facility’s efficiencies.
In terms of the contract work, the agency will likely focus most closely on the air traffic control towers managed under the Federal Contract Tower Program. The FAA has identified both these FAA-funded contract towers, as well as government-run control towers, with less than 150,000 total operations, or less than 10,000 commercial operations that will potentially be closed to meet sequester requirements. In recent public remarks, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has suggested that service reductions at FAA control towers could have a disproportionate impact on general aviation.
The FAA also anticipates a denigrated ability to provide upkeep on its facilities and services, including, as just one example, navigational aids (NAVAIDs). It is generally assumed that preventative maintenance of some NAVAIDs may require much longer intervals, or if deemed not a high enough priority, may not be restored to service at all. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the situation as dire-sounding as possible and even invoked the possibility of security delays and lost efficiency on the part of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Such an intimidating prospect was designed to cause the traveling public to convulse, en masse. The sheer thought of the TSA creating delays and being more inefficient might well cause some people to literally get out of line at the airport and go home!!
In the end, sequestration will probably prove to be a mixed bag: it’s actually accomplishing something a majority of voters have indicated they favor–a slow down in out-of-control government spending. Unfortunately, the Administration has chosen to target areas for across-the-board cuts that will cause some pain, rather than seek to avoid it. Sequestration is really just a political tool, being wielded by a President and Administration that cares more about winning elections than saving money. That’s a pretty pointed explanation for it. It still falls short of communicating what it truly is…bipartisan stupidity!