PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE

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A Turbulent Year Ahead for Business Aviation

By Ed Bolen

As NBAA Members know, the business aviation community faces significant turbulence heading into 2009. General aviation flights are down, manufacturers’ backlogs are eroding, the market for used airplanes is larger than ever, aircraft maintenance and repair shops are hurting and FBOs are increasingly stressed. And as the people and businesses in general aviation weather one of the worst economic storms anyone has ever seen, the policy challenges coming out of Washington appear no less daunting.

For example, the media circus surrounding the Big 3 auto executives’ use of business aircraft has led some lawmakers to put forth various proposals banning all use of business aviation for any company using federal relief funds. Such proposals illustrate a lack of understanding of the critical support business aviation provides to companies and communities across the United States and the tens of thousands of jobs that are involved in the industry.

A lack of understanding about business aviation also is evident in the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) advanced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The proposal – in many ways an overlay of airline security onto general aviation – would be unduly burdensome without providing a clear security benefit.

Other troubling signs are on the horizon. The fight over user fees as part of reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration remains unsettled. Also, environmental policies related to aviation emissions will likely emerge as part of lawmakers’ ongoing review of proposals for limiting all transportation emissions.

As always, NBAA will work throughout 2009 to help Members confront the policy challenges we face. And as always, your direct involvement in our efforts will be critical. An illustrative example can be found in our industry’s recent, successful effort to remove a proposal to prohibit all business aircraft use by any company receiving funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). NBAA explained to Congress that this harmful proposal would fuel tens of thousands of job losses in general aviation.

Your involvement in turning back the proposal was critical: An outpouring of NBAA Members from across the country used NBAA’s Contact Congress to send lawmakers an unequivocal message of opposition to the TARP proposal, showing that our Members’ direct participation can make a difference.

Your ongoing involvement will be needed throughout the coming year, as NBAA continues representing your interests on other issues in Washington and around the country. For example, (as an article on page 6 makes clear), NBAA is working hard to bring sanity to the TSA’s LASP plan. But our efforts will be most effective if our message is echoed by your voice.

NBAA has provided the resources for you to weigh in on the TSA proposal: A new Contact Congress letter helps Members explain our concerns about the TSA’s plan; we’ve also made online resources available for Members to weigh in with TSA officials on the LASP proposal. We know that as we look to the challenging year ahead, our Members are working harder than ever. They’re trying to be creative, nimble and smart about their business. NBAA will likewise remain committed to finding solutions to the challenges confronting our industry.