When President Obama was in his business aviation-bashing mode earlier this year, the general aviation industry countered with a rally in Wichita that attracted more than 2,000 GA workers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was there, and he lauded the importance of general aviation manufacturers to the state of Kansas and the U.S. industrial base as a whole. The former Republican congressman also promised the crowd that the President would visit “the air capital of the world” next year.
Although the event in a Cessna hangar was rife with federal, state and local politicians, it was General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) president and CEO Pete Bunce who sparked the loudest cheers when he told the gathering, “The only very important people in here today are you. This rally is really about you.”
But GA didn’t just rest on its laurels. In June, GAMA and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) sent a letter to the White House emphasizing that, while ill-informed criticism of corporate jets and business aircraft might appear to some as good politics, the reality is that it hurts one of the leading manufacturing and export industries in the U.S. This kind of criticism, the organizations said, also led to the layoff of more than 20,000 IAM members. [While one could argue that the layoffs were likely more a result of the recession, which was created mainly by the failure of the housing market, thousands of risky mortgage loans, worthless, opaque investment derivatives comprised of these loans and a whole lot of greed, the White House's the criticism of corporate jets certainly did not help the industry--Editor.]
In August, GAMA partnered with Rockwell Collins and Goodrich at a GA rally that drew hundreds of workers, state and local officials at Rockwell’s Flight Operations Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Senator Charles Grassley and Representatives. Tom Latham, Leonard Boswell, Steve King and Bruce Braley recognized GA’s “tremendous impact” on the state of Iowa. And Bunce closed with, “We are fortunate to have with us members of Congress who understand the role general aviation plays as an essential form of transportation and as a creator of jobs. We look forward to continued work with you to ensure a full recovery of our industry and move toward a new period of growth and prosperity, here in Iowa and across the nation.”
Two weeks later, the scene shifted to Mustang Aviation in South Dakota’s capital, Pierre. This time, GAMA was joined by AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Air Transportation Association and NBAA. Senator John Thune and Governor Dennis Daugaard recognized GA’s “tremendous impact” as a provider of vital services to the rural and agricultural areas of the state as each spoke to the crowd of workers, state and local officials and aviation enthusiasts.
Let’s hope that the enthusiasm continues to the other 47 states, and sends an unmistakable signal to the Obama Administration and the rest of Congress not already in the GA camp.