Wichita's Mayor Steps Up

10:13 PM

In the past few months, we pilots who voted for Barack Obama have cringed each time he or anyone in his administration badmouthed those who fly on private business aircraft.

We aviators know that business aircraft is not a luxury in today's competitive business environment, but a necessity to stay one step ahead of others in your field.

So when Mr. President or his team paints with a broad brush and slams bizav, it hurts deeply. Yes, when CEOs like the ones from the car companies come to Washington "hat in hand" to beg for bailout money, showing up on private jets might send the wrong message to Average Joe. And with the media in lockstep, Obama's team has made flight by private aircraft into a "luxury" that corporate America can do without. But they cannot:

When the speed of business in today's wired world goes off the charts and deals come down not in days but in nanoseconds, major companies need to have access to a well-oiled flight department so they can get the face-to-face needed to close deals NOW. They need this because the competition has a fleet of jets, and it would be impossible to compete while flying commercial...even in the first cabin. Even with tiny corporations like mine with a one-ship flight department, having a business airplane is not a luxury, it is part of our tool kit. So when Obama slams the jet guys, the public is not equipped to separate them out from all private air travel.
As we all want to scream at The White House over this mess, it is refreshing that Wichita, KS Mayor Carl Brewer has called out the President directly. The following is a letter published verbatim from the City of Wichita web site:
Letter to the President

March 3, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: President’s comments on corporate jets

Dear Mr. President:

During your Feb. 24 address to Congress, you appropriately criticized corporate CEOs who “disappear on private jets.” I share your concern about the poor public image conveyed by such misuse.

And, while I personally agree that corporate abuse of business jet travel cannot be tolerated in these current economic times, it is important to remember that business jets are still an essential part of a successful national business plan. It is also important to remember that the responsible use of corporate jets will help spur our national economic recovery, maximizing productivity by minimizing travel times for key personnel.

It would be tragic if that essential business fundamental was lost amid the sensational news coverage of ill-advised corporate jet travel by a tiny percentage of corporate America.

As mayor of this great Midwestern city that takes great pride in the title of “Air Capital of the World”, I urge you to consider the big picture when referencing the misuse of corporate jets. Wichita’s long-term relationship with the aircraft manufacturing industry could be severely damaged if the corporate jet market is marginalized in the national debate over our struggling economy. But the loss of jobs locally in Wichita is only a small part of the national loss if corporate jet travel is unfairly disparaged.

Business jet manufacturing is a major part of our local and state economy, but it doesn’t stop there. Maintenance of Air Force One is performed right here in Wichita, Kansas. And every job created in the aircraft industry spins off nearly three other jobs that provide a great quality of life. Those numbers are too important to forget as we work together to fix our ailing economy.

I’d encourage you to take a first-hand look at this economic engine that pays off with high-quality jobs for our community. I would be honored to personally escort you on a tour of our local manufacturers. Most importantly, I stand ready to assist you in meeting the great challenges that lie ahead.

Thank you for your consideration.
Mayor Carl Brewer
I hope the President takes Brewer up on his offer to tour ground zero of our GA manufacturing world. I believe Obama is a very smart man, and gets things quickly. I honestly do not believe he seriously thinks business aviation is a cause of our country's economic woes. When he sees GA up close and personal, he will then learn there is nothing the matter with Kansas. Or the rest of the GA industry.

So please, Mr. President, go tour Wichita, and then do GA a favor and follow these two words:

Back. Off.

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