David Franson
February 27, 2012

Administration Antipathy

D. Franson

When it comes to business aviation, the Obama Administration is trying. But lest you think I’m giving them credit for putting forth a reasonable effort when it comes to this extremely important segment of the aerospace industry, let me be crystal clear: they’re trying… my patience! I keep waiting for the President, his advisors, and Congressional surrogates to demonstrate that they’re overcoming 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. Now they’re advancing the often-rejected prospect of user fees in the latest Budget proposal. 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. It frustrates me enough that I’ve drafted an open letter to the President. I’d actually spend the half dollar it now costs to post a letter if I thought he’d actually read it and consider a response, but since I doubt that’s really the case, I’m offering it here on the off-chance someone in the administration or Congress will take notice:

Dear Mr. President:

I hope you’ll perhaps find time to read this on those rare occasions when you are actually in the office. It looks like you’re really energized by the breadth and scope of your responsibilities as the leader of our nation and have moved aggressively to get out among the people affected by our challenging economy and reassure them. From Elkhart, Indiana to Fort Myers, Florida to Peoria, Illinois, and even Detroit, Michigan, you’ve been there to shake their hands, pat working people on the back and tell them that you understand what they’re going through. That resonates with me, Mr. President, because like many of them, thirteen thousand of my neighbors here in Wichita have been laid off. So far, those jobs aren’t coming back, either…and a lot of these skilled folks are either moving away, under-employed or have given up trying to find another position. That may help your unemployment numbers, but it’s not doing a lot for one of the nation’s most important industries.

I wish you could come here to Wichita and give me similar reassurance, but I’m assuming you can’t take the time, nor incur the risk involved with driving clear to to the place where we build most of the nation’s–and the world’s aircraft. In the past, I assume you would have hopped on Air Force One–a plane we completed and have maintained here in Wichita, by the way–and dropped in on us for a quick visit but, in light of the comments you’ve been making on a regular basis, I now understand that you believe the use of a private aircraft is actually a bad thing. I know, for instance, that any company or organization who received TARP funding, was expected to sell their corporate airplane and find some other way to travel among their various locations. Those with multiple locations in some of our country’s smaller towns could probably drive, since airlines have actually been reducing the number of cities they serve of late. Others will, of course, utilize the airlines to get to the nearest big city airport and then rent a car (is that still permitted?) to get to their sites.

From here in Wichita, we can fly to a number of cities nonstop, but they’re not all that close to the plants our local corporate executives need to visit. Fortunately, we CAN get to hub airports like DFW or ORD or DEN and the layover between flights isn’t usually more than a couple of hours. It’s conceivable that some of our local business types who eschew private aviation will actually be able to visit more than one location in a single day if they plan accordingly and don’t run into any challenges that require them to alter their schedules. In the past, when they could fly to an airport close to their outlying facilities, work on the airplane and discuss proprietary subjects without fear of being overheard and change plans, when necessary, to stay a little longer or leave a little later, they were actually able to visit multiple sites and be home the same day. Under the approach you advocate, that obviously must change… but, on the bright side, it’s bound to provide a stimulus to the hotel and motel business.

Mr. President, if you really have our best interests at heart when you bad-mouth the evil users of corporate aircraft, because “they need to pay their fair share and spread the wealth around,” why don’t you tell us how much of a dent in the national debt their fair share would make! I know the Vice President says it’s our patriotic duty to share the wealth, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past couple of years trying to explain that to my neighbors when they say they don’t understand why you have gone after our livelihoods so aggressively. I tell them you ran on Hope We Can Believe In and working together, we can fundamentally change America. Yes, we can! The only problem, sir, is that we were actually pretty satisfied and proud of America when you were elected and we’re not sure why you feel compelled to apologize for it now!

Mr. President, we’d probably be more inclined to appreciate your stimulus package if it was clearly and completely defined in a way we can all understand and support. We just hope we didn’t make a mistake. I’d hate to think that, despite our best efforts, the national debt might balloon to more than that of all the previous administrations combined and we’ll end up mortgaging not only our children’s futures, but their children’s children!

We’re trying to understand, Mr. President. For instance, is it your position that the positive balance of trade our airplane makers in Wichita have enjoyed for many years really isn’t nearly as important in the long run as implementing a formula for national health care? Are you trying to tell us that a positive trade balance won’t help us return to prosperity nearly as quickly as creating a system that weeds out large numbers of health care recipients by denying them ongoing care because they probably won’t live very long anyway?

Finally, Mr. President, when the economy turns around, as surely it will once we start building new bridges and restoring wetland habitats of the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, we hope you’ll come to Wichita and bring the Vice President, Senators Reid and Schumer, former Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Frank. There are lots of us here that will want to thank them personally for putting our interests ahead of their political ambitions. Maybe you could include us in your “List of Places To Go To Sign Legislation” since, apparently, you’re willing to come to places close by like Osawatomie.

If you fire up that Big Black Bus of yours and motorcade out here (since you wouldn’t want to be confused for a Fat Cat on His Royal Barge by flying in Air Force One), we’ll welcome all of you to a place where even F-5 tornados can’t keep us down or stifle our vitality. We’re resilient in Kansas and we always find a way to cope. Just let us know, by way of one of your extremely informative and stimulating press conferences, that the crisis is over and you’re ready to come and see us. We’ll send a police escort for your bus!

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One thought on “Administration Antipathy

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