AIN Blog: From an Industry Struggling To Recover, “Gee Thanks, Mr. President”

 - July 1, 2011, 6:30 AM

As part of an industry still struggling to recover from a recession and continuing attacks by the media and politicians alike, I was appalled by President Obama’s press conference Wednesday in which he used his bully pulpit to vilify corporate-jet owners. Not surprised. But appalled.

It isn’t the first time this Administration has criticized corporate aviation. In 2009, ABC News reported that officials of the Obama Administration had made it clear to Citigroup that $45 billion in government bailout funds were not appropriate in light of Citigroup’s order for a $50 million Falcon 7X. Citigroup folded and cancelled the order. Dassault Falcon and its workers suffered. Nor were they the only ones, as customers across the industry began cancelling orders and business-jet users in unprecedented numbers started cutting flight hours.

Yesterday, Obama decried “tax breaks for oil companies and hedge-fund managers and corporate-jet owners.” This, even though the tax breaks he noted were created by his own stimulus plan through accelerated depreciation, which also applies to other capital expenditures.

And he went on to play the fear card, saying that if we choose to retain these tax breaks, “that means we gotta cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we’ve gotta stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.”

Before making such cuts in entitlements and services, the President added,

“It’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate-jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.”

All this is from a President who doesn’t hesitate to make liberal personal use of Air Force One for everything from campaign fund-raisers to family vacations. And by any description, Air Force One, a head-of-state Boeing 747, is the ultimate corporate aircraft

Last summer, First Lady Michele Obama flew without the President to Spain on vacation with some 40 of her friends and staff on another government corporate jet, this one a Boeing 757. More recently, the First Lady, with daughters Malia and Sasha, two cousins and an accompanying entourage, flew to South Africa on a “goodwill tour” aboard Air Force Two, the government’s other Boeing 747 corporate jet.

I work in an industry that, according to the National Business Aviation Association, employs 1.2 million people and generates $150 billion in revenues each year. NBAA president Ed Bolen, in a statement in response to President Obama’s press conference, described corporate aviation as “one of the remaining few industries that produces much-needed exports and contributes positively to the nation’s balance of trade.”

Even so, this industry is now struggling to dig out of a recession that saw hundreds of previously thriving vendors and suppliers go out of business.  The NBAA described the recession as “very deep and very costly,” resulting in layoffs in business aviation of some 15,000 workers. And according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, government and media criticism of corporate jets and business aviation led to the layoff of more than 20,000 machinists and aerospace union workers.

But in his press conference Wednesday, President Obama insisted he is in the business of creating jobs. Thanks a lot for the help, Mr. President.