The 44th President of the United States of America
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Author, Statesman and Business Aviation User
Mr. Barack Hussein Obama II
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President;
I wanted to take a moment to ask you ‘man to man’ why you have decided to single out the General Aviation Industry for your public vilification and attacks, when you yourself are such a heavy user of the services provided by this vital industry?
You might argue that you do not use General Aviation while fulfilling your role as the Commander in Chief of the United States as the aircraft that you predominantly use for state business are operated by both the Air Force and the Navy. However as you know, there are only 180 Air Force Bases and 40 Naval Air Stations located within the Contiguous United States, while these potential destination landing sites for both Air Force One and Marine One are supplemented by only a further 70 airports that are currently served by Commercial Airline Service.
If you chose only to fly in-and-out-of these ‘less-than’ 300 specific airports-exclusively (which I know is not what you do), then I believe that you would agree that it would be impossible for you and your executives to accomplish many of the tasks set you by the U.S. Citizenry. This is because there are 5,261 general aviation airports that you can choose to fly in-and-out-of, depending on the size and type of aircraft that you elect to utilize on that day. These public use airports are the only available option for fast, reliable, flexible air transportation to small and rural communities in every corner of the country, providing jobs, serving as a lifeline for small to mid-sized businesses, and providing critical services to remote cities and towns in time of natural disaster or crisis. I am confident that you would agree that Transportation is the lifeblood of an economy and in many places around the world, general aviation plays a vital role in basic economic development.
In addition to your utilization of General Aviation Airports, you and your executives also fly Business and General Aviation Specific Aircraft that include:
1 x Gulfstream III
2 x Boeing 737
3 x Boeing 747
4 x Boeing 757
5 x Gulfstream V
The aforementioned aircraft are exclusively operated for you by the 89th Air Lift Wing based at Andrews AFB in Maryland, while there are other executive aircraft in-use all-through-out the United States Government. Also during your bid for the Presidency in 2008 you primarily used a Boeing 757-200ER during your campaign travels as well as other chartered aircraft. Lastly I know that you are quite familiar with several of the Beechcraft King Air fleet aircraft that are operated by the Illinois Department of Transportation that is based in Springfield, Illinois; therefore I contest that you are a heavy user of General Aviation. Unfortunately when you do choose to fly, the draconian security measures, namely the Temporary Flight Restriction System that has been adopted by your Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you personally cause significant direct financial loss to our industry members located along the paths of your chosen travel itineraries.
Now please don’t misread what I am trying to say in this letter by identifying a few of the General Aviation aircraft that you and your executives utilize, because if you didn’t use these aircraft, then it would be highly questionable how effective you and your people would be, if you all relied solely on Military and Airline service alone. All thinking people know that a Business Aircraft is 100% a business tool just the same as a Blackberry or Laptop Computer is, NOT a just a perk for ‘fat-cats’, ‘big oil executives’ and ‘billionaires’ as you appear to be characterizing them as such. This mischaracterization of the value of business and general aviation is now severely nobbling this country. Corporate jets are business tools with varied uses. About 74 percent of corporate jets carry sales, technical and middle-management employees to more airports domestically, none of which have airline service. It is a fact that you and your executives are very familiar with, that corporations that use General Aviation and are members of the National Business Aviation Association, earn annual revenues equal to one half of the $14.7 trillion dollar economy of the United States while they employ more than 19 million people worldwide, thus making General Aviation users the single largest economic driving force within this country.
Why then do you find it appropriate behavior for you to publically deride and denigrate such an important industry like General Aviation, especially when we are all living out a time when the entire world is struggling to claw its way out of the worst Global Financial Crisis in history?
Surely you should know from reading that General Aviation itself as a stand-alone industry directly contributes to the country in all of the following ways:
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the United States has nearly 600,000 pilots, including over 222,000 private pilots, 124,000 commercial pilots and 146,000 air transport pilots.
In 2005, a comprehensive study by Merge Global, Inc. concluded that employment from General Aviation totaled 1,265,000 jobs in that year.
That same study pegged the national total economic contribution of General Aviation at $150 billion annually.
Additional economic impact can be inferred from the 2,200 charter flight companies, 4,144 repair stations, and 569 flight schools operating 4,653 aircraft. There are 3,330 fixed based operators, 18 “fractional” ownership providers and 261,806 airframe and power plant specialists.
Over 320,000 general aviation airplanes worldwide, ranging from two-seat training aircraft to intercontinental business jets, are flying today; 231,000 of those airplanes are based in the United States.
In the U.S., general aviation aircraft fly over 27 million hours and carry 166 million passengers annually.
Nearly two-thirds of all the hours flown by general aviation aircraft are for business purposes.
General aviation is the primary training ground for most commercial airline pilots. The United States used to be the largest trainer of pilots the world over, until the TSA put this segment of the General Aviation Industry into rapid decline because of their extreme vetting procedures.
The general aviation aircraft manufacturing industry remains a bright spot in U.S. manufacturing exports and continues to contribute positively to the U.S. trade balance. As an example, in 2008 it generated $5.9 billion in new airplane export revenue for the United States. Unfortunately sales are on the decline, thus your comments should be words of encouragement and pride instead of the current poison that you have been orating of late.
In the time period between 1994 and 2008, manufacturers of general aviation aircraft produced and shipped over 41,000 type certificated, fixed-wing general aviation aircraft worth over $182 billion. During this same period, the size of the piston engine aircraft manufacturing industry grew by over 240 percent, generating tens-of-thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs in the United States and around the world.
In the United States there are well over 230,000 active aircraft which are used in corporate and business aviation, in emergency medical service and for personal recreation. These aircraft fly over 27 million hours each year, two-thirds of which are for business purposes. around the world, an estimated 320,000 general aviation aircraft are in operation, flying in excess of 35 million hours per year.
U.S.-made business aircraft dominate here and abroad, helping our nations’ balance of trade and keeping Americans in high-paying manufacturing jobs. Last October you proposed and wrote into law a bill that accelerated depreciation schedules for business aircraft purchases made by corporations to encourage companies to invest in new aircraft by reducing their tax burden. Now you propose reversing this sound economic policy.
We should be encouraging growth. General aviation manufacturers have lost 13,000 jobs, aircraft sales have fallen 7 percent, one manufacturer has filed for bankruptcy and banks have all but made aircraft loans impossible to get. We don’t need tax changes to drive our industry farther into despair; we need support from our elected officials and government regulators to foster growth in business aviation.
An aspect of your Budget Deficit increase debacle is the issue of the appropriate way of funding the FAA. This issue has made the FAA a political football that has been kicked around 21 times now, with no goal scored! Worse I am fearful that you are leaning towards a user-fee system to replace the current funding through federal Excise tax charged on Aviation Fuel sales and Commercial Flight Segments, all supplemented by the interest earned by the Aviation Trust-Fund.
MYTH: GENERAL AVIATION DOES NOT PAY ITS FAIR SHARE
In reality, General Aviation makes up only about 3 percent of the operations at our busiest and costliest airports. The system was designed for the commercial airlines. The entire size, complexity and cost of the system are driven by airline operations. NASAO, as one of the many advocates for reopening Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in the wake of 9/11, knows that that airport was closed to General Aviation for four years. Yet, FAA’s costs at the airport did not decline; controllers were not laid-off or transferred. General Aviation is obviously not a major cost driver.
MYTH: USER FEES ARE BETTER THAN THE EXISTING FUEL TAXES FOR GENERAL AVIATION
In reality, user fees would require the creation of a new, expensive and unnecessary federal bureaucracy which would need to raise fees simply to sustain itself. NASAO has watched user fee systems in other countries. They do not seem as effective or efficient as fuel taxes. During economic downturns – government bailouts have been necessary. The current fuel tax system is elegant in its simplicity. General Aviation pays at the pump. The larger the aircraft or the farther it flies– the more it pays.
Instead of asking you to ‘cease and desist’ with your targeted abuse against my industry and my livelihood, I will close with an analogy that I have extrapolated from history to apply to you and government:
The German Tiger Tank was the most feared piece of artillery in World War II, however due to the size and weight of its gun, it could not fire while moving. It’s armor could deflect multiple rocket attacks and shelling and in hindsight it seems that the most effective way of killing the Tiger Tank was to not engage them and instead to make them travel some distances on the hunt for action until they inevitably died from mechanical breakdowns, which were unfortunately a common occurrence for the German offensive force.
It is easy to view your current government in the same way as the Tiger Tank, i.e. you and your executives share the same characteristics by holding the reins of the most fearsome world power on the planet today, which unfortunately cannot act while moving, and instead you spend weeks, months and sometimes years of sitting in your offices debating without acting, because to do so might damage your nicely engineered condition which affords you all life-time health and pension benefits in recompense for only a single term of service in public office.
Eventually your government, just like the Tiger Tank, will eventually grind to a standstill due to infrastructure breakdowns, and then ultimately we as a nation will be picked-off by lesser forces because of your inane system of movement and fire. China is watching and waiting…
On the evening of November 4th, 2008 in the capacious Park in Chicago that was named after General Ulysses Grant, you gave a momentous victory speech after winning the Presidency. During this speech you said: “This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.”
We the people of General Aviation are also your people.
Jeremy Raymond Courtney Cox
Employee within the General Aviation Industry, U.S. Citizen, Voter and Very Disappointed