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Thu, Nov 10, 2005

NBAA 2005 - Day One of 58th Annual Convention

User-Fee Assault Renewal Threatens GA, Again -- Unity Among Air Carriers Poses Different Threat Than Last Time

By ANN Correspondent Dave Higdon

"That was then…this is now," warned NBAA Ed Bolen during the press breakfast that annually kicks off opening day of the National Business Aviation Association Convention.

"Then" was back around 1997, when most of today's "legacy" airlines attempted a legislative coup that would shift the tax burden of their passengers to the passengers of the low-fare carriers - specifically and especially Southwest Airlines.

"Now" is today, 2005, and this time air carriers appear united behind an effort to shift their tax burden onto general aviation. And it's not going to be pretty.

"The airlines are trying to sell this idea that a blip is a blip - that a single-engine turboprop carrying six people should pay the same as an Airbus A380 carrying 580."

Somehow, noted Bolen and GAMA president Pete Bunce, they want people to believe that general aviation is somehow not paying its fair share. In place of today's tax system - an excise tax levied on each gallon of fuel - the air carriers want a system that charges by the takeoff and time using the system. Said Bunce, "In place of the existing simple, fair, efficient system of fuel excise taxes, they want a system that's complicated, expensive to run, inefficient and complicated."

Such a system would require far more people, far more paperwork and far more money to operate. Imagine receiving a lengthy invoice each month for your touch-and-go work, your cross-country work, for filing for flight following or instrument fights. Imagine something akin to a merger of your credit-card and cell-phone bills.

Wouldn't that be fun? Now imagine you wade through all those pages and find charges for flights you know you didn't make. If you've ever had to challenge an incorrect phone or credit bill, you can imagine the fun of challenging the government's contention you owe them for those flights not flown.

Divide & Conquer becomes Divide and Charge Us

When last air-traffic system charges were an issue for the airlines, the debate was largely within the air-carrier industry. According to Bolen, "The major carriers basically told us in general aviation that we weren't part of their argument and that we didn't have to worry." With the majors' average fare hovering around $400, their passengers were paying about $40 per ticket in excise taxes; Southwest passengers, with that airline's average fare of around $69, paid less than $7. "They weren't interested in us, they were out for Southwest."

This time, with the airlines united, the bull's eye hangs on the empennage of general aviation. To paraphrase Bolen, the airlines hope to divide and conquer the community of private and corporate operators.

"We've heard of schemes that would try to differentiate between piston and turbine operations, of ideas about trying to split us between VFR and IFR operations," Bolen said. But, he noted, with piston aircraft accounting for around 11 percent of all IFR flights, using that difference as a wedge may not work to shift the costs the way the airlines want.

"We've talked to the other major groups, to Phil Boyer and AOPA, to Tom Poberezny at EAA, and we're going to present a united front," Bolen said.

"We have to."

Red Cross Recognizes NBAA for Katrina Relief Efforts

As everyone at the NBAA Convention knows, Hurricane Katrina imposed its will on NBAA by devastating the Gulf Coast and forcing the meeting's move out of New Orleans. But neither the association nor its members simply turned their backs on the region.

As one part of the NBAA staff tackled the logistics of uprooting the meeting and starting the process of finding a new location and the challenging logistics of a shift in only 10 weeks, another part of the NBAA staff helped organize relief airlifts by members with available aircraft. And the NBAA membership responded with their wallets as well as their hardware, donating more than $15 million to the Red Cross.

Wednesday morning the head of the Orlando chapter of the American Red Cross came to NBAA to acknowledge the efforts of the association and its membership with the presentation of a plaque to NBAA president Ed Bolen. Joel Potts commended the efforts of the NBAA, of Ed Bolen, his staff and members in his presentation and announced that the aid continues to flow from members' wallets through a 1 cent per gallon donation being made by static-display host Showalter Aviation at Orlando Executive Airport. This latest philanthropic effort will, Potts said, feed another $30,000 into the efforts to help victims of Florida's latest hurricane, Wilma.

Challenger 605: The Latest Incarnation Of Bombardier's Best-Selling Mid-Size Line

Bombardier's best-selling Challenger 604 is nearing 10 and it, too, is getting a major facelift in the form of the Challenger 605, the company announced at NBAA. While retaining all the performance, operating efficiency and utility of the 604 it replaces, the 605 also gets the benefits of Rockwell Collins' increasingly popular Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite. Bombardier opted to make a number of popular 604 options standard on the 605, among them an enhanced auto-throttle system, enhanced Flight Data Recorder, large flat-panel monitors in the main cabin, and an aft baggage compartment stair.

In the 605's Pro Line 21 installation, Bombardier opted for a quadrant of 10 X 12-inch advanced liquid-crystal displays, all mounted in a portrait orientation. Compared to the six Pro Line 4 7.25-inch-square displays, this new Pro Line 21 system ups display space by more than half. These new larger screens of the Pro Line 21 provide more capability and more flexibility than the screens they replace. Options include enhanced maps, three-dimensional flight-route portrayal and either XM Satellite Radio or Universal Weather's datalink weather graphics.

Bombardier didn't neglect the cabin on the evolution of this jet, most notably giving the cabin new larger windows mounted higher off the floor for improved visibility and a sensation of a larger cabin. First flight of the Challenger 605 is expected early in 2006, with first delivery in the second quarter of 2007.

Cessna's Looking For A Few Good Planes For Its Fifth Citation Special Olympics Airlift

An airlift like no other is on the schedule for July of next year and it will, if past history is any arbiter, move people in ways that no other flight operations can match. The games next year run from July 2 to July 7 in Ames, Iowa.

Cessna needs almost 120 more Citation owners to volunteer their aircraft, fuel and crew to reach its goal of 400 Citations flying the Special Olympians to and from the games on July 1 and July 8. Already more than 140 Citation owners have signed up for these missions; at 400, the 2006 Citation Special Olympics Airlift will be larger than any of the prior four airlifts, which topped out at 275 Citations during the 1999 games in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

"The airlift is absolutely essential to the success of the Games," said Bruce Pasternack, president and CEO of Special Olympics Inc. "We have a lot of athletes coming from all over the United States and transportation is the biggest expense each state has to bear."

The Citation Special Olympics Airlift is a logistics miracle run with the precision of a military exercise. Over a period of approximately 18 hours, a Citation lands every 60 to 90 seconds, its athletes and their families disembark, and the jet quick turns back out for its next mission. The process repeats again and again until all the athletes flying by Citation are landed. After the games end, the process reverses until all the champions have returned to their departure airports.

Noted Cessna chairman Jack Pelton, "The success of the Citation Special Olympics Airlift depends on the collaboration and tremendous support we receive from individuals within Cessna, the FAA, on-site airport officials, local fixed-base operators, hundreds of volunteers from the community, the Special Olympics organization and most importantly, Citation owners and operators."

As a first-hand witness to the 1991 airlift to St. Paul, Minn., it's an experience that transforms both the athletes and the volunteers who make it happen. Operators and owners ready to volunteer their Citation can contact Cessna's CSOA director, Marilyn Richwine at mrichwine@cessna.textron.com.

FMI: www.nbaa.org

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