By Roxana Hegeman
WICHITA, Kan. – About 70 mayors and other officials from cities across the U.S. have urged President Barack Obama to use his “bully pulpit” to change perceptions of corporate and private jets, saying the general-aviation industry has suffered because of negative media coverage.
In a letter to the president made public on Wednesday, officials from cities in 14 states, including Kansas , noted that the general-aviation industry has struggled as businesses and even the wealthy have cut back amid an uncertain economy.
“We must sell planes and we must have individuals have planes,” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said in a conference call with reporters. “Just as individuals need cars to conduct business, corporations have to have planes to conduct business.”
The letter said the industry also has suffered as a result of negative publicity surrounding corporate jets, which have symbolized executive greed amid dwindling investments, a sagging stock market and uncertain job prospects. For example, lawmakers reprimanded auto executives in December when they flew on private jets to Washington to plead for billions in taxpayer money. The executives used other transportation on their follow-up trip to Washington .
And in January, Obama chastised CitiGroup for buying a corporate jet when it was getting bailout money. CitiGroup canceled the purchase of the jet which it had ordered before the economic crisis unfolded.
In the conference call Wednesday, Steve Van Oort, the mayor of Ankeny, Iowa , explained what he would like Obama to do.
“I want him to respond in a positive way when remarks are made about general aviation and I want him to visibly show support for general aviation to keep it strong,” Van Oort said.
The letter noted that airplane-makers have laid off thousands of workers, and that airports, flight schools, mechanics and other related businesses also have been affected.
“Given the crisis which has been created in this entire economic sector, it is not enough to remain silent,” the letter, dated April 22, stated.
The officials called on Obama to defend the industry in order to protect the 1.2 million jobs and $150 billion a year in economic output created by the industry. Officials from cities in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia signed the letter.
The group of officials noted that general aviation planes provide a lifeline to rural . Only 500 cities are served by the major airlines, while general aviation provides access to 5,000 airports across the country, according to the letter.
Fred Bott, mayor of Devils Lake, N.D. , said that kind of access is important to businesses considering where to build facilities.
“In order to spread economic activity, you need that strong industry,” Bott said.
Brewer told reporters that the general aviation industry has a $7.1 billion economic impact in the state of Kansas . He said three additional jobs are created for every aviation job.
“The aviation industry is equally important – if not more important – than the car industry,” Brewer said. “I believe we need to focus on that and keep it in mind.”
Wichita bills itself as the air capital of the world and is home to plants from the major business aircraft-makers, including Cessna Aircraft Co., Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and Bombardier Aerospace. Spirit Aerosystems and Boeing Co. also have plants in the city.
On the Net: Alliance for Aviation Across America: http://www.aviationacrossamerica.org/
Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS