We can’t turn on the television, click on our favorite news source, or listen to the radio without being overloaded with Presidential campaign ads and poll results. The election is almost here and though the primary issues concern mainstream America, many have asked what my thoughts are as to how the election will affect business aviation.
Without a doubt, what happens in Washington has a profound affect on all aspects of aviation.
First a couple quick definitions, for those that may not know. General aviation is comprised of just about everything that is non-airline and non-military. This includes business aircraft, both privately owned and those available for charter. Controlled airspace is airspace overseen by an air traffic control agency.
The general aviation community has been fighting government proposed “user fees” for quite sometime. The Obama Administration has proposed a fee for some general aviation aircraft using controlled airspace. It certainly seems specifically targeted at business aviation as it excludes public, military, piston, and air ambulance aircraft. That pretty much leaves bizjets. It is suggested that the revenue generated would be used to finance airport investments and air traffic costs. Groups like the National Business Aircraft Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have been very vocal in their opposition to these fees. They have clearly illustrated how they would have a very negative affect on the industry and, in some cases, raises safety concerns. In a recent issue of AOPA Pilot magazine, an interview with Republican candidate, Mitt Romney gave a very vague response when asked directly if he supports user fees, but was clear that he does not support unnecessary and burdensome government regulation. User fees do not currently exist in the United States. They do exist in Europe and make general aviation there very expensive. Ask anyone who owns or charters an aircraft in the EU and they’ll tell you how those fees have an adverse affect on general aviation.
The current Administration certainly takes every opportunity to vilify users of aircraft for business purposes. Even in the first Presidential debate, President Obama took an opportunity to take a jab at the private aviation industry when suggesting ending any tax breaks for owners of corporate jets would help reduce the national deficit. In fact, he said “My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it.” General aviation employees approximately 1.2 million Americans and we are the leader in aviation technology, manufacturing and design. Aviation was born here. Cessna, Beechcraft, Piper, and Boeing among others are all US companies. The President champions the US auto manufacturing industry, but twists a figurative knife in the heart of general aviation manufacturers and users as often as possible. Tax incentives for the depreciation of business aircraft not only benefit aircraft sales, but also the businesses, farms, flight schools, first responders, and institutions that need them as part of their day to day operations.
Mitt Romney has utilized business aircraft in his professional life quite a bit, and understands the vital role they play, not to mention the estimated $150 billion impact business aviation has on the US economy. Every time a business jet needs to take flight, there are many jobs necessary to make it happen; pilots and flight attendants, booking agents, fuelers, mechanics, air traffic controllers, aircraft catering, FBO operations, dispatchers, etc.
It might be optimistic speculation to assume that he will be much more friendly to business aviation, but I don’t think so. In stark contrast to the current Administration, Romney is very business friendly and understands that for business to get done, there is a need for the convenience and efficiency that business aircraft offer. It’s not the Hollywood jet-set crowd bouncing from beach house to ski chalet that fills our skies. It’s companies and individuals that need the members of their upper and middle management to be efficient. Remember, less than one forth of the nations airports are serviced by the major airlines.
Business aviation is a necessity and it’s not going away. It could get a lot more expensive though, depending on who sits in the Oval Office over the next four years. It is extremely important for our elected officials to support this industry, and recognize its place in the business world.