My friend Jack Pelton, retired Chairman, President and CEO of Cessna, recently suggested that it would be appropriate and prudent to re-insert the wording originally included in the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 defining one of the FAA’s duties as the “promotion, encouragement and development of civil aeronautics” into the FAA Charter. It was expunged as part of the 1996 reauthorization bill. Now, more than ever, I couldn’t agree with him more. This important segment of the industry has been the target of almost constant negativity from politicians for the past three years and that vitriol is likely to increase as the political campaign season nears conclusion.
Under the circumstances, it’s not very likely the FAA will suddenly become a vocal champion for business flying. It reflects the administration and, at this point, the best thing that can be said about representatives of the Obama Administration is that they’re trying. But lest you think I’m giving them credit for putting forth a reasonable effort to “promote, encourage, and develop,” the industry–especially the business aviation segment– let me be crystal clear: what they’re trying is our patience! I keep waiting for the President, his advisors, and Congressional surrogates to demonstrate that they’ve overcome what has appeared to be a steep learning curve regarding the role and contribution of private aircraft, but their comments and initiatives indicate just the opposite.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not ignorance–it’s antipathy! It’s actually an orchestrated attack, driven by polling data that says taking shots at “fat cats in their corporate airplanes” will play well with an potential voters who are ignorant or apathetic about all of the contributions to our economy, way of life and local communities–not to mention all of the jobs–people who fly in business aircraft provide. In Wichita, where more than 13,000 aviation related jobs have disappeared since 2008, we’ve grown frustrated enough to try virtually anything we can to get the President’s attention. Our mayor has written letters, our Congressional delegation has attempted to meet with him and representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have prevailed upon their president, Tom Buffenbarger, to suggest to President Obama–on more than one occasion–that he make a trip to Wichita to see the impact his negativity towards business aviation has had. So far, no response…just more cheap shots.
Actually, he made it as far as Osawatomie in December of last year to give a political speech, but wasn’t able to stop by Wichita. If he ever does decide to come to the Air Capital, he may want to drive, since Air Force One is actually the ultimate business airplane. To keep from being confused for a Fat Cat in his luxury air barge he may want to fire up that big black, double-decker bus he’s used recently and create a never-ending motorcade between Washington, DC and Kansas. It might be a terrific idea. He can stop along the way at hundreds of small town airports to promote, encourage and develop aviation!