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Add aviation to stimulus package, Congress told

By Tim Norton· December 14, 2008

If Congress were to include the aviation sector in its economic stimulus packages, more than 40,000 high-paying jobs would be created, aviation safety would be improved, and there would be positive effects for the environment, according to a coalition of aviation organizations including such strange bedfellows as AOPA and the Air Transport Association.

The group of twelve organizations told leaders of the House and Senate that the industry’s proposals “not only would achieve short term economic stimulus goals, but would also lead to long-term efficiencies and economic growth. This is an investment we cannot afford to postpone.” The Dec. 10 letter was addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“Investing in the aviation infrastructure will put people to work,” AOPA President-elect Craig Fuller commented, concerning the letter. “There are hundreds of relatively low-cost projects pending at community airports across the country, ready to go. Investing in them could immediately help local communities, and encourage additional economic investment,” he said. “The … proposals included in the letter incorporate many of the ideas that AOPA discussed last week in a private meeting with President-elect Barack Obama’s transportation planning transition team,” Fuller concluded.

In addition to AOPA, the co-signers are the Aerospace Industries Association; the Air Transport Association; the Airport Consultants Council; Airports Council International-North America; the American Association of Airport Executives; the Cargo Airline Association; the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; the National Air Carrier Association; the National Business Aviation Association; the National Association of State Aviation Officials; and the Regional Airline Association.

The letter made six key proposals, including more funds for airport construction and incentives to aircraft owners and airlines to install equipment to take full advantage of the NextGen air traffic control system.

The group stated that about $3 billion should be spent quickly on NextGen infrastructure, which would reduce airline delays, improve aviation safety and reduce emissions. The letter’s signers also asked for $2.5 billion to support aircraft equipage, including ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) transceivers. That, they wrote, would “accelerate many of the economic and environmental benefits.”

“Approximately 20,000 aircraft could be so equipped, with this investment, generating high-paying … jobs in the high-tech fields of civil aviation manufacturing, flight operations, maintenance, and environment,” the letter stated.

The group proposed that the current Airport Improvement Program receive an additional $1 billion in funding, pointing out that there are more than 5,000 public-use airports in the United States, but only about 500 have commercial service.

“There are improvement projects that would increase the utility and safety of these vital airports that could go to contract within 30 days if the money were available,” Fuller commented, predicting that such infrastructure funding would create as many as 35,000 jobs.

Several changes to the tax code were suggested, intended to make airport bonds more attractive to investors, thus providing more money for construction; to help keep aircraft manufacturing production lines moving; and to encourage new aviation research and development.

Although the aviation industry is affected noticeably by the current economic downturn, “all forecasts point to robust growth in the civil aviation sector in the coming years,” the group said, backed by new forecast from JP Morgan Chase and other financial leaders.

“Investment in our aviation infrastructure will pay dividends for generations,” said Fuller.

The aviation industry, directly and indirectly, generates more than 10 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, he said. That represents about 5.6% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

To read the letter, click here.

NATA’s Coyne asks Senate to oppose automobile bailout

By Tim Norton · December 14, 2008

National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President James K. Coyne sent a letter to members of the Senate, Dec. 11, encouraging opposition to House bill 7321, which authorizes financial assistance to automobile manufacturers. The Senate plans to consider the bill immediately.

Within the House legislation is a provision that would prohibit the major automobile manufacturers from owning or leasing private aircraft. After reviewing this language, in consultation with Congressional staff, NATA believes that the provision also is intended to preclude the use of commercial, on-demand air carriers, and as participation in fractional ownership programs.

According to Coyne, “Approving the legislation with this provision sets a damaging precedent that will detrimentally affect the thousands of small businesses in this country that provide air transportation using general aviation aircraft, as well as the small businesses that support these types of operations.

“Expressly prohibiting all air travel that is not on a scheduled commercial airline is an unreasonable restriction on the auto industry and any other industry with a diverse rural manufacturing and supplier network,” Coyne wrote. “Most of the automakers’ facilities are located in rural areas, [requiring] efficient transportation that the airlines, especially as they cut back on routes, can’t provide. Chartering an aircraft on a government-licensed on-demand air carrier offers corporations unparalleled speed and access at far lower costs than any form of ownership.”

In his letter, Coyne highlighted the importance of general aviation to the U.S. economy and the number of jobs this sector supports.

“I implore you, as a member of the U.S. Senate, to consider the more than 1.265 million jobs created by the general aviation industry, many of which are supported by these small aviation businesses and play a critical role in our American economy. These jobs are placed at significant risk if the federal government bars corporations from using their services. Using legislation intended to save jobs in one sector of the economy to impact jobs negatively in another, equally important, segment is unconscionable. The aviation businesses represented by NATA will all suffer financially if Congress approves this legislation with its underlying precedent that the use of private aircraft by Corporate America is not acceptable.”

Coyne concluded with a request to members of the U.S. Senate to consider carefully how, because of poor public perception of the use of private aircraft, this bill’s unintended consequences will hamper the general aviation industry.

“While it is regrettable that … Congressional hearings that focused on the use of private aircraft by the Big Three automakers’ CEOs have tainted an industry that provides an invaluable resource to working America and our economy, I strongly encourage you to oppose H.R. 7321. The small aviation businesses that are the backbone of the aviation industry, especially during these difficult economic times, should not suffer from the unintended consequences of this legislation.”

To see the entire letter, click here.

General Aviation Aircraft Have Minimal Ability to Cause Damage

The vast majority of the General Aviation (GA) fleet is comprised of small single-engine aircraft with six or fewer seats. The typical GA aircraft, such as a Cessna 172, weighs even less than a subcompact Honda Civic, carries significantly less cargo, and travels at speeds of about 130 miles per hour. As a result, it would take more than 1,000 small planes acting as one to equal the destructive potential of a single airliner.

The General Aviation aircraft flown from America’s 5,261 community airports are ill-suited for terrorist use, given that they lack the weight, speed, fuel, and load-carrying capacity to do significant damage to a target. That’s why there has never been a known terrorist attack anywhere in the world using a General Aviation aircraft.

GA Aircraft Are Not A Threat To Nuclear Power Facilities

In the face of mounting questions from elected officials about nuclear security, AOPA commissioned a report by internationally recognized nuclear safety and security expert Robert M. Jefferson — formerly of Sandia National Labs — to directly address concerns about any potential risk posed by GA aircraft to nuclear powerplants. The resulting report was then used by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during its June 5, 2002 hearing on nuclear plant security.

According to the report, a General Aviation aircraft could not penetrate the concrete containment vessel of a nuclear powerplant. Nor would an explosives-laden General Aviation aircraft likely cause the release of radiation. A small aircraft attack on any auxiliary plant buildings would not cause a safety failure. And a General Aviation aircraft could not ignite the Zirconium cladding on spent nuclear fuel. In short, GA aircraft are not a threat to nuclear powerplants.


Ineffective As A Weapon

The unfortunate suicide crash of a Cessna 172 by a distraught teenager into a downtown Tampa office building demonstrates the ineffectiveness of a GA aircraft as a terrorist weapon.
A November 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on General Aviation Security noted that “the small size, lack of fuel capacity, and minimal destructive power of most General Aviation aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists and, thereby, reduce the possibility of [any] threat associated with their misuse.”

Low Destructive Potential

A fully loaded Cessna 172 weighs approximately 2,450 pounds, carries only 56 gallons of fuel and 120 pounds of cargo, and reaches cruise speeds of about 140 mph. In sharp contrast, a Boeing 767 can weigh more than 450,000 pounds, carry some 24,000 gallons of fuel, and reach cruise speeds of 530 mph giving it 1,000 times the destructive potential of a typical small plane.



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