Washington Report

 - May 5, 2009, 5:10 AM

The two Republican senators from Kansas joined a growing chorus in support of business aviation when they took President Obama to task for “misguided and reckless statements and policy suggestions” affecting the general aviation industry.

In a joint letter to the President, Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback wrote, “During your address to the Joint Session of Congress, you said, ‘This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to…disappear on a private jet.’ While we understand your intent may have been to chastise companies that made irresponsible decisions with taxpayer funds provided by the Treasury Department, we are concerned that your comments may be used to fan a flame of misconception regarding the use of general aviation.”

While some may find it politically expedient to view business aircraft as a luxury, they said, the reality is that many businesses of all sizes rely on these aircraft to provide the most cost-effective and efficient means of transportation for their business model.

“Business aircraft provide employees with the flexibility to travel directly to smaller airports not serviced by airlines as well as the ability to conduct business while traveling,” the lawmakers noted. “Furthermore, 86 percent of passengers on business aircraft are in fact not CEOs or company ‘fat cats,’ but actually mid-level managers, sales representatives and technical employees.”

While they applauded the White House’s support of modernization of the ATC system, the two senators expressed concern about a “somewhat ambiguous” reference to repealing some aviation excise taxes and replacing these taxes with direct user charges.

“We hope this ‘user charge’ is not a repeat of the flawed policy proposal from the previous administration,” Roberts and Brownback said. “The user fee approach to modernizing our air traffic control services proposed by President Bush greatly disadvantaged the general aviation industry and was rejected by the House of Representatives and the Senate Finance Committee in the previous session of Congress.

They further explained that strains in obtaining aircraft financing coupled with misinformed threats from public officials about the use of business aircraft have slowed orders for new airplanes, resulting in job losses. “The last thing this industry needs is unwarranted and unfounded public criticism on top of punitive policy suggestions that pit one aviation sector against another,” the senators warned.