Must an entire sector of U.S. civil aviation be demonized in the interests of Obama re-election campaign?

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

President Barack Obama, in a speech at the White House Wednesday , saw fit to paint an important sector of U.S. civil aviation -- business aviation -- as an icon of corporate greed worthy of contempt by ordinary working Americans who have been hit hard by the long economic recession.

Business aviation, which consists of private jets , crop dusters , and corporate aircraft of many different kinds, provides jobs to factory workers at places like Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier, Cessna, and Piper. This sector of our civil aviation industry also provides livelihoods for those who work at fixed-based operators, aircraft parts sellers, fuel vendors, and even publishing.

Business aviation, in short, provides honest work for many Americans -- many of whom are like the rest of us, just getting by and struggling to make ends meet. Instead, our president who's running an increasingly desperate campaign for re-election in 2012, wants to tar these people as purveyors of corporate greed.

The president told a news conference Wednesday, "The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners."

Corporate jet owners must be bad, even though they provide employment for a large sector of U.S. civil aviation, our president reasons. Well this just isn't true.

Corporate jet owners aren't fat-cats who light big cigars with hundred-dollar bills, as the president and many of his supporters would like us to think. They are people running important industries who can't afford to waste time in commercial airports waiting for commercial flights. Without the benefit of private aviation, these industry executives often cannot make money or continue to employ workers.

And this does not even address the other American industries that our president is trying to hurt here. I used to get a paycheck from the oil industry. So did my dad, and a lot of other people I know. My dad's paychecks, which had the name Chevron up at the top, helped feed and clothe me as I was growing up, and helped pay my way through college. This so-called "big oil" money helped sustain me and my entire family. It's the same with business aviation.

Those who must use corporate jets work hard, they hire people, and they don't deserve this kind of disrespect from our nation's president. Business jet manufacturers have long been demonized as serving only the undeserving rich. They have endured the public's disdain, and have labored under so-called "luxury tax" burdens that few other sectors of our economy must bear.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a trade association in Arlington, Va., that represents the nation's aviation and aerospace companies, also was quick to react to President Obama's unfair and heavy-handed rhetoric.

"We're disturbed by President Obama's remarks on business aviation today," wrote Marion Blakey, president and chief executive officer of the AIA shortly after Obama's press conference. "It seems odd that he would undermine the aviation industry one day after visiting Alcoa's factory and praising the workers who make parts and materials that are critical to producing business jets," Blakey wrote. "General aviation plays an important role in our economy and took a substantial hit in the recent recession. We feel that disparaging comments from the president regarding business jet users are not conducive to promoting jobs, investment and economic growth."

Nevertheless, President Obama said at Wednesday's news conference, "I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that."

Well here's an American who doesn't, and I'd like to hear the opinions of every employee who's involved in the civil aviation industry on the subject. What the civil aviation industry does not need is job-killing tax increases. What the civil aviation industry needs right now is sensible economic policies that create and maintain jobs, and get unemployed and under-employed Americans back to work.

This won't happen if the president continues to demonize legitimate industries, and to pit different groups of Americans against one another.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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