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Thu, May 22, 2008

NBAA Combats Latest ATA Campaign Against Corporate Jets

They're At It Again...

Don't think for a moment just because it appears likely a permanent solution to fund the FAA is now at least 15 months off, that the Air Transport Association is taking a break from spreading its rhetoric against general aviation and, in particular, corporate aircraft. The lobbying group for the nation's largest airlines recently sent a mass email to various news organizations, stating passengers unfortunate enough to be stuffed into commercial airliners were subsidizing corporate travelers attending the Kentucky Derby.

"Just two weeks ago, Big Brown galloped past his competitors and easily won the Kentucky Derby," the ATA writes. "Many of us watched the winner’s circle celebrations on television while others flew on luxurious private jets to watch in person. Did you know that airline passengers were subsidizing these posh trips to the race?"

"Airlines and their passengers paid more than 90 percent of the costs of running the air traffic control system but accounted for only 66 percent of system operations," the group continues. "Business jets, however, underpaid for the air traffic control services they used by nearly $1 billion. Does that sound fair to you? What if you were told that during Derby weekend, the overwhelming majority of the jets in the skies over Kentucky were private jets?

The ATA then continues its familiar "us-versus-them" rhetoric... alas, sadly, this time without the benefit of cutesy cartoon airliners.

"...This unfair practice is not just limited to the Kentucky Derby -- private luxury planes account for nearly two-thirds of all jet aircraft in the United States. And it is not as though these jet-setters cannot afford to pay their fair share," the group pointedly adds. "Private jet operators do not seem to be affected by the tight economy like the rest of us -- orders for new private jets are up 41 percent from early 2007 to early 2008."

Let's be blunt here -- despite invoking the current, perilous state of the US economy, no one here honestly believes ATA CEO James May (shown above, right) is worried where the money's coming from to fill his gas tank, or to put food on his table -- especially as he was recently named one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington (along with former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.) It's not outrageous to assume he's not hurting for petty cash.

Ditto for the CEOs of the very airlines May's organization represents... despite those carriers' well-publicized economic travails, and their efforts to eck out every last penny from their workforces, and of course their customers...

Nevertheless, Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, took the high road in refuting the ATA's latest claims.

"The ATA's suggestion that GA air traffic at a well-planned weekend event in a single location was somehow problematic is simply laughable," Bolen said. "The fact is, delays are caused by the airlines over-scheduling flights 365 days a year at big city airports all across the country. An official with the Department of Transportation recently provided a clear example of the airlines' over-scheduling practices to Congress by pointing to one airline that scheduled '56 departures in a 15-minute window at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, about three times the number of planes that the airport has the capacity to handle.'

"It's also disingenuous for the airlines to suggest that general aviation won't contribute to aviation system modernization, when the GA community supports legislation that contains a 65-percent fuel tax increase on GA to help fund the Federal Aviation Administration and transform the aviation system," Bolen (below) continued.

As ANN reported, that legislation stalled on the floor of the US Senate two weeks ago... the victim to partisan bickering amongst many of the same lawmakers ATA's members have paid good money for to support airline interests.

FMI: Read The ATA's Email, www.nbaa.org, www.airlines.org

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