Cirrus Owner's Group Continues To Bow, In Part, To Cirrus/China's Demands | Aero-News Network
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Mon, Aug 08, 2011

Cirrus Owner's Group Continues To Bow, In Part, To Cirrus/China's Demands

Despite Controversy Among Board Members, COPA Breaks Media Agreement With ANN After Threats From Cirrus Aircraft

After a surprising, last-minute, development alleging an attempt by Cirrus Aircraft to coerce the Cirrus Owner's and Pilot's Association into forbidding the Internationally read and syndicated Aero-News Network's attendance at the annual owner's group gathering in Colorado Springs to be held later this week, the matter remains both unresolved, controversial and very troubling.

Despite their well-documented agreement to work with ANN to serve as the event's media partner (as was done the year before with very positive feedback), and an extensive amount of negative response from COPA members over their initial decision to let Cirrus pay for their own live coverage and boot ANN in the process, COPA has refused to honor its agreement with the Aero-News Network to serve, again, as the media partner, and will provide its own, last-minute 'live' web coverage of the event. Mind you, ANN got effusive and glowing praise for our previous efforts... which apparently didn't mean much to the president of COPA, who is reported to have made the original decision before consulting the rest of the Board.

As noted in our breaking news story last week, a number of COPA officials had indicated that Cirrus first attempted to have ANN removed from attending the event altogether (allegedly in response to recent critical editorial efforts... including the story that first broke the news that Cirrus was in the process of being sold to Chinese entities). COPA allegedly refused this ultimatum, but did, initially, cave into the demand that ANN be replaced as the live streaming media-partner for the event... with Cirrus paying for the service themselves and ostensibly able to exert some control over what they were paying for. According to COPA personnel, Cirrus had originally threatened to pull their sponsorship and participation from the event if ANN was not 'muzzled' in some form.

Since the news broke, and in an apparent attempt to ameliorate the negative feedback of its membership, COPA officials have told ANN that they are now going to refuse Cirrus Aircraft funds in payment for the event's live coverage -- and will instead conduct and pay for these services themselves. The result is that COPA will break their agreement with ANN, with little notice and after ANN had made agreements with contractors, vendors, sponsors, syndication partners and other entities to provide the requested and agreed services. A somewhat questionable statement allegedly posted by the COPA Board (though members of that board have expressed some serious disagreement with the course and conduct of this decision) seems to attempt some historical revisionism by stating that the media partnership was still subject to bid by a number of parties and that COPA decided to not accept ANN's 'offer'. However; documentation received by ANN, as well as statements online (on the COPA site), contradict this statement and (we believe) firmly establish the fact that ANN was both approved and had agreements with COPA to serve as their partner at this event -- and again, as they had in the past. Further; shortly after this matter became public, ANN received reports of some personal attacks (on the COPA message boards) coming from persons/parties that have had no prior contact/discussion or involvement with ANN... and while we do not know those allegedly involved, the personal attacks parallel the very threats issued to ANN by Cirrus Aircraft personnel... and are being reported to Law Enforcement.

The matter has just gotten somewhat more ponderous in that ANN has received word from long-time ANN sponsors that within days of this revelation, they had begun receiving 'anonymous' packages in the mail that appeared to have the intent to disparage and defame ANN and its Editor-In-Chief -- and appear to be an organized attempt to damage or destroy this news organization's ability to conduct its business as a journalistic entity. The action was not unexpected in that several Cirrus Aircraft officials had threatened ANN Publisher Jim Campbell that if he persisted in covering issues surrounding a number of controversial actions that were alleged to have been conducted by the management/staff of CA, that 'quite a lot of dirt" had been gathered (about Campbell) and would be disseminated in response. The 'dirt' reportedly includes details of Campbell's 1978 arrest for a World Trade Center skydiving episode; some seemingly negative material from the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In -- who was exposed by Campbell for fraudulent attendance reports, safety issues and other concerns; and matters supposedly connected to an FAA medical issue that are over 30 years old... and of dubious veracity. The matter is being handed over to US Postal Service Inspectors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for immediate action and investigation.

Aero-News Analysis/Opinion: Here we go again. The actual ID of the party, or parties, engaging in acts of apparent mail fraud, as well as extortion, remains as yet unknown... but the timing is suspect in light of the recent events conducted by Cirrus Aircraft to allegedly violate various constitutional protections, our business agreements with COPA, and to force our silence on matters that they have refused to respond to, that we strongly believe require explanation and exposure. We find it particularly troubling that within scant days after being bought by a company owned by a Communist Chinese state-owned firm, that Cirrus Aircraft personnel seem intent on attacking journalists in a matter that seems quite apropos with the established precedents of the Chinese government. The current management of Cirrus might find themselves quite at home on Tiananmen Square...

ANN's coverage of the Chinese purchase, initially, was based more in finding out the truth behind the actions of the company prior to the sale, rather than who it was being sold to... but in seeing what has happened to one of the most successful and uniquely American aviation success stories, we are now greatly concerned as to what may be next. If CA's Brent Wouters is acting out of his own desire to muzzle ANN, that's one thing... but if this is being conducted at the behest of his Chinese bosses, that is quite another... and the reason why we have asked for Federal Investigation and intervention in seeing this matter be properly examined. Further; if this isn't a matter that begs for the attention (and action/involvement) of the various American aviation associations, such as GAMA, AOPA, and others; we're not sure what is. 

ANN remains resolute in NOT bowing to the extortionate demands of a company that appears to have acted improperly while receiving proper journalistic scrutiny over same. ANN remains resolute in denying any attempt to circumvent the magnificent freedoms and the awesome responsibilities inherent in the First Amendment to our somewhat battered US Constitution... and ANN remains more resolute than ever before in telling you what we know to be truth and what we so very strongly believe needs to be known by the aviation industry if it is to have any chance of recovery and success.

Warts and all, we're going to keep doing our jobs. We love aviation, and the people in it, so very desperately that we simply do not know any other way to act...

As an aside, we are sorry to have to disappoint so many of the event's sponsors and attendees who had come to depend on ANN for the coverage and exposure we provided this once proud event. ANN, single-handedly, produced more stories, online/audio/video about this event than ALL OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS COMBINED. Yes... ANN is getting screwed, the Constitution is getting screwed... but the companies that needed ANN's coverage and the persons who wanted ANN to cover this event are the ones getting royally hosed. At a time when even the largest events in the aviation world are watching pivotal sponsors/companies/supporters drop out of attending and supporting their events, slapping these vendors and supporters in the face with the loss of this extensive media coverage seems to be a questionable and indefensible decision. If we were such a vendor, we'd be asking for our money back... and we hear that several intend to do just that...

ANN's Jim Campbell will attend, briefly, the upcoming COPA event, in an attempt to resolve questions about this and other matters that we believe to be our responsibility to pursue. In light of the apparent miscommunication by the COPA Board and their decision to cave in to the demands of Cirrus and their Chinese bosses, and in apparent violation of proper ethical conduct (as described by two senior COPA officials at odds with these recent actions), Campbell will resign from the Cirrus Owner's and Pilot's Association at the forthcoming event. Due to the aforementioned threats (and others that have been received of a far more direct nature), ANN will not risk harm/harassment to any other of our personnel and will send no one else to this event.

Please understand that ANN does have much to be concerned about... although we have not yet detailed the specifics, ANN has been the victim of what we (and our legal advisers) have concluded to be serious and threatening conduct by Cirrus Aircraft -- and, in particular, by three of the most senior persons at that company. While we regret the need to get involved in our own stories, ANN will document that situation shortly (as if we didn't have enough on our plate already... sigh). -- Jim Campbell, ANN CEO/Editor-In-Chief/ Soon-To-Be-Former COPA Member/Supporter

FMI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution, www.cirrusaircraft.com, ww.cirrusowners.org, https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/, www.fbi.gov

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