Wednesday, seventy mayors and county executives from across the country held a conference call with reporters announcing the release of a letter to President Barack Obama communicating the crucial importance that small aircraft – also known as general aviation – provide to small towns and local economies across the country.
During the call, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also renewed his call to invite the President to Wichita to witness firsthand the toll that the recent economic downturn has taken locally in terms of massive lay-offs, as well as the ripple effect that this downturn has had on Wichita and the over 5,000 communities around the country that depend on general aviation, many of which have little or no commercial air service. General aviation contributes $150 billion to the economy annually and support 1.2 million jobs.
We have lost over 9,000 jobs in Wichita alone because of the economic downturn and the string of negative press about general aviation – and the fallout could cost this city 25,000 more jobs. General aviation is a crucial segment of our national economy and for thousands of local economies around the country, and that’s why I am urging the President to visit our city and pledge his support to these hard-working Americans whose lives depend on this important industry,” said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. Mayor Steve Van Oort of Ankeny, IA continued: “In Iowa alone, general aviation contributes approximately $176 million annually to our state, and aviation in our state supports at least 10,000 jobs. We must support this crucial infrastructure, both here in Iowa and nationally, because it affects not only manufacturers, but thousands of airports, industries, businesses and services that depend on this crucial form of transportation.”
At least 13,000 jobs have been lost nationally, sales of general aviation aircraft have fallen 7%, and Eclipse Aircraft announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequent Chapter 7 liquidation on February 24th of this year. Hawker Beechcraft has announced two rounds of lay-offs since November, 2007, Piper Aircraft has had to lay off 300 employees, roughly one-third of their workforce, and Gulfstream, the largest employer in Savannah, announced lay-offs of 2,700 workers.
Mayor Rick Fernau of Show Low, Arizona added, “Small and mid-size communities like ours need the manufacturing and service jobs that general aviation makes possible, as well as to connect with larger, urban areas in Arizona and around the country. That is why I join with these Mayors from across the country in urging the President to recognize this important industry.”
“General aviation is a literal lifeline to thousands of communities around the U.S that do not have commercial airline service. In the wake of the recent disaster here in North Dakota , general aviation planes and airports were crucial in helping the Civil Air Patrol and National Guard monitor the floodwaters to make evacuation plans and watch hazardous effects of the flood such as downed power lines. We have to ensure that this vital lifeline is preserved,” concluded Mayor Fred Bott of Devils Lake, North Dakota.