Jul
8
2011

PLANE TALK

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Well, if you haven’t heard by now, the U.S. President decided last week during a press conference to malign the business aviation industry by accusing users of business jets as enjoying tax benefits above and beyond what is afforded to users of other business equipment. Gee, last I heard accelerated depreciation was a creation of the current administration as part of the stimulus package to jumpstart the economy and create jobs. So when did the users of business jets become the primary reason why our economy is not recovering?

This attack seems to me like nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from the fact that the administration has failed miserably in their efforts to restart the economy, primarily in the area of job creation. How easy it is to throw stones at a highly visible business tool and get the public believing that anyone with a business jet is living large as a result of enjoying certain tax benefits, while the rest are struggling. One important fact was not presented during this press conference: that the purchase of a business jet for personal use does not qualify for bonus depreciation. Kudos to NBAA and all who support this industry for quickly rallying and parrying the sword thrust at an important part of this country’s manufacturing sector.

I am not sure though the public or the media today is buying this attempt to redirect their focus. Particularly since it comes on the heels of the First Lady and family’s junket to Africa on board a VIP government jet…all at taxpayers’ expense. Or when the first family heads out on vacation they will enjoy the “perk” of private jet transport. All tax free. Funny how these benefits of the job do not make their way into the same press conference. Vilifying the corporate jet user or the well to do may make for an interesting sound bite from a President, but does it really serve the good of the people being served?

How did it get lost on our leader that the business aviation industry employs around 1.2 million people in just about every capacity imaginable? That these people too have mortgages, kids in school, car notes, grocery bills that are twice as much as a year ago and medical bills to pay. That they have suffered losses and setbacks just as many other Americans have. Just like the automotive or factory worker that gets up and goes to work every day. The big difference may be that the overwhelming vast majority of aviation employees get up and go to work because they love their job. I don’t recall a visit to Wichita to see firsthand how severely one city can be affected by a downturn in an industry. Perhaps because it does not mirror the problems of a city such as Detroit and therefore does not make for as good a political backdrop. GAMA states that in excess of 20,000 union workers have been laid off and there is an estimate of another 15,000 jobs in general aviation having disappeared. Over 10,000 manufacturing jobs in Wichita alone have been lost since the start of the economic downturn.

Business aviation creates jobs, benefits communities and drives shareholder value and NBAA’s more than 8000 members strong have earnings that constitute more than fifty percent of the U.S. GNP. Business aviation activities contribute more than $150 Billion dollars to our economy and has a positive balance in trade! The industry has suffered dramatically since the start of the economic downturn, yet for the most part news of such has been largely ignored by mainstream press. Consequently mainstream America, outside of specific cities where manufacturing is concentrated, has been immune to the hardships suffered by business aviation companies and their employees and families. Business aircraft sales are in Year 3 of a downturn regardless of what the administration wants to say about signs of an overall recovery.

If the decline in the purchasing of business jets, be they used or new, continues a significant number of Americans and American cities potentially could be severely impacted. I am not ignoring that the manufacturers of those fine aircraft produced overseas are also suffering from the setback in the U.S. economy, but this most recent degradation of business aviation was specifically aimed at American companies and individuals who make use of business jets. Let’s hope no other embattled public official jumps on the band wagon and tries to make business jets the scape goat for a failure to orchestrate a turn-around that benefits all.

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