BY MOLLY MCMILLIN
About 70 mayors and other officials, including Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, are calling on President Obama to protect aviation-related jobs and their economic impact.
In a letter to the President, they’re asking him to use his bully pulpit to help change “toxic perceptions” about general aviation.
“Recent negative press which has mischaracterized general aviation has created a poisonous climate for the aviation sector of the economy,” the letter said.
Jobs have been lost and a sector of the economy has been damaged, it said.
“Mr. President, we call on you to speak out,” the letter said.
Brewer reiterated his invitation to Obama to visit Wichita to get a firsthand look at the aviation industry here.
So far, there’s been no response.
“I will continue to make the request every opportunity I get to,” Brewer said. “The aviation industry is as equally important — if not more important — than the car industry. I believe we need to focus on that and keep that in mind. They really need to come and see what we’re doing.”
Brewer has been in contact with the United States Conference of Mayors, which is supportive of the effort, he said.
The Alliance for Aviation Across America is in charge of the letter and effort to get Obama’s support.
The group, which promotes educating the public on the value of general aviation, hosted a conference call with mayors from four communities on Wednesday.
The letter calls on Obama to protect the 1.2 million jobs and $150 billion a year in economic output created by general aviation.
“I want him to respond in a positive way when remarks are made about general aviation,” said Steve Van Oort, mayor of Ankeny, Iowa . “I want him to visibly show support for general aviation to keep it strong.”
The industry is vital to Wichita , which has been hard hit by the economic downturn, Brewer noted.
The average annual pay for aviation employment in the Wichita area in 2007 was about $69,000, compared to an annual average of nearly $40,000 for other jobs.
Aviation manufacturing employs one in eight people in the Wichita area and had a 2007 payroll of $2.7 billion.
The sector’s economic impact on Kansas is nearly $7 billion.
Since November, Cessna Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier Learjet have announced more than 9,500 job cuts.
In addition, Cessna plans to issue 60-day notices to another 700 workers by mid-June. Most of the cuts will be in Wichita .
And Hawker Beechcraft said last month that another round of layoffs is in the works. It has not announced how many jobs will be lost.
Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: WICHITA EAGLE