Editorial: Tough Times

 - November 4, 2008, 10:23 AM

Business and corporate aviation faces its most daunting challenges in the six decades since innovative people put comfy chairs, a coffee pot and windows into surplus WWII warbirds for the mobility of industry’s movers and shakers. Nobody envisioned the global financial mess we find ourselves in when they expressed confidence that business aviation is now deeply entrenched enough to ride out the next trough. This one has the potential to be more like a Moses water-parting, exposing hard seabed, than a trough with some cushioning, and it will be a severe test of a business aircraft’s worth.

On page 10 of this issue are the prognostications of experts, some of them with a vested interest in cheerleading for business aviation. Their research is based on surveys of users’ purchasing and upgrade plans, however, and the surveys’ results, while varying to degrees, suggest that nobody appears to be wearing especially rose-tinted glasses. By way of counterpoint, one business aviation consultant sees prospects through MIB dark glasses, predicting that “If they haven’t already, new aircraft orders are poised to fall off a cliff.” OEMs generally concede that their order backlogs, massive in some cases and stretching halfway through the next decade, will undergo adjustments but remain hopeful about prospects.

But darker than the financial gloom is the TSA’s proposal for a rule change that threatens to undermine the whole raison d’etre of business aviation–its ability to carry passengers wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go, in obscurity. In effect it would ground any aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds until its operator complies with a complex and burdensome list of TSA requirements before each and every flight under FAR Part 91, the federal regulation that thus far has defined private flights. If the TSA gets its way, there will no longer be such a thing as a private flight in any non-Part 23 aircraft. AIN senior editor Matt Thurber pored over the 260 pages of the proposal for many hours to research and write the major examination of this absurd and clumsy shackle that starts on page one.

Terrorists changed the skyline of New York City on 9/11. Our government is playing right into their hands with “fixes” such as the TSA’s LASP. It will do absolutely nothing to make Americans any safer, and it must be defeated.