The Future of Aviation, LaHood Style

By Robert Mark on May 17th, 2010

OK, I might as well just come out and say it right from the start … I’m pretty miffed. But I’ve actually been angry since the NBAA convention in Florida last fall when I heard Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists, speak to the crowd on opening day. He explained that he’d been trying to convince President Obama to stop in at Wichita for a visit of the vast general and business aviation manufacturing arm that been there for 50 or 60 years. So far, the President hasn’t yet made the trip.

imageIt’s not the President’s lack of attention to business aviation that has me upset this time though. Nope, it’s this silly Future of Aviation Advisory Committee Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in March that really burns me.

The committee will focus principally on five issue areas:  ensuring aviation safety, ensuring a world-class aviation workforce, balancing the industry’s competitiveness and viability, securing stable funding for aviation systems, and addressing environmental challenges and solutions. 

The DOT last week announced the 19 members who will make up the panel. The cast of characters is pretty much whom you’d expect, Patricia Friend, president of the flight attendants union, CEOs Glenn Tilton from United, David Barger from JetBlue and Robert LeKites from UPS, not to mention a few airport CEOs like Paul Regalado from Nashville and Thella Bowens from San Diego, not to mention Nicole Piasecki from Boeing.

There’s really only one guy who seems the odd man out. That’s Cessna’s CEO Jack Pelton. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Jack. Quite the opposite in fact. He’s a personable, bright guy who’s had aviation blood running through his veins since he was a kid. And, of course, he just happens to run a company that produces more business aviation airplanes each year than any other on the face of the Earth.

The real problem with this big Aviation Advisory committee meeting that begins next week is that Jack Pelton’s the ONLY guy in the group that doesn’t somehow relate to the airline industry. Hello Mr. LaHood! I know you’re only an Obama appointee, but I’m from Illinois too, so please hear me out.

The real future of aviation begins with encouraging new pilots and mechanics and airport operations people to join the industry. By the time they reach the airline level, they’ve normally been around for some time. So guess where these people really learn about aviation? It’s at the general aviation airports where people first learn to fly, like Chicago Executive (KPWK), or Dallas Addison (KADS) or Van Nuys (KVNY). So why not invite the manager of Dallas Addison Airport? Joel Jenkinson’s a pretty smart guy. Bet he could help.

Business aviation also operates a huge fleet of aircraft of all shapes and sizes. Why not invite the National Business Aviation Association president Ed Bolen to be part of the committee? And of course there is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association that represents over 425,000 people in the U.S. who use aircraft? Why not ask Craig Fuller? I know AOPA only represents about 2/3 of the active pilots in the U.S., but hey Ray, go with me on this one. Of course there’s always the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) that represents thousands of employees and customers that have nothing what so ever to do with the airlines. Pete Bunce can be pretty chatty about the future.

So why hasn’t Ray LaHood asked for input from anyone besides the airlines you might be asking? Simple. Only one of two reasons I can think of, either they don’t care or they don’t have a clue where general and business aviation fit in the mix about that Future of Aviation. Neither one is much of an answer. Oh wait, I just thought of one more. This entire aviation advisory committee is just one big PR show. That’s not much of an answer wither though, is it?

The Next Step

Remember the work everyone did beating down the Large Aircraft Security Plan from TSA last year? We need the same effort now. Write the White House and then write or call your local Congressional representative. Tell them you’re mad as Hell and that you’re not going to take it any longer. If the DOT Secretary isn’t bright enough to understand that the future of aviation begins at small airports, let’s convince him. And then tell the President he needs to get Air Force One pointed toward Wichita so he’ll realize there’s more to the future of aviation than simply what Boeing build in Seattle.

Rob Mark

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8 Responses to “The Future of Aviation, LaHood Style”

  1. John Kosak Says:

    Robert, great article, I’ll be re-tweeting it and linking to it on my Facebook page. I’ll also be contacting my representatives as you suggest.

    Also, speaking of the TSA, how do you feel about the lack of any representative from the security sector?

  2. Mike Friesen Says:

    The ignorance is breath-taking.

    Mike

  3. Jim Harrod Says:

    Rob

    Great comeback to the meeting announcement. I’d like to comment on the Mr. Lekites from UPS. He’s got no business there at that meeting. When he took his position at UPS he didn’t know anything about aviation and I have no doubt he knows anything about it today.

    He may be in charge of a successful airline but he doesn’t know the first thing about aviation and anything he would be trying to do on this committee would be to promote UPS’s business and not aviation!

    I didn’t see Clay Lacy’s name mentioned either, he would be another excellend choice or even FedEx’s Chairman. After all these are true builders of aviation commerce!

    J. Harrod

  4. Robert Mark Says:

    One industry source I spoke to told me that almost no one expects much out of the DOT summit because it is so lopsided.

    As a reader told me today though, what a loss this is for all of us. we have all these industry leaders coming together. Imagine if the cross section were better balanced.

    We might actually accomplish something.

  5. c Emmons Says:

    As a pilot for 42 years I think I’ve seen some of the program. Your wrong. The majority of the professional pilots never started at a suburban airport. they started in the military. I’d been to Vietnam and back as a pilot before I ever operated out of a suburban airport. you question Mr. LaHood’s choices based on your evaluation of their experience level. I see Nicole Piasecki for Boeing. Her family has been in aviation over 100 years having virtually invented dual rotor helicopters. But the important thing is the public needs to be represented. The majority of the flying public that pays the majority of the taxes that supports the system ride in the back of airline operated planes. They are paying the majority of the cost for the operation of the system they deserve the majority of the representation. Business aviation has been flying in the system basicly for free for years. Its time everybody paid their fair share. What do you think of that. Aviation like many things in this country has become a welfare state supported by tax payers who may use it once a year on vacation. I know a pay as you go industry has been a major fight for years. But like every other welfare program eventually it drains the gold from the goose. Air traffic service cost for an IFR G5 is just as much as for 737. But each passenger on that 737 will see additions to his ticket cost in taxes. The airline will pay fuel surcharges the same as the G5. But when the day is done and the fuel surcharge and the additions to tickets haven’t covered the cost of the system I don’t see business aviation rushing in to cover the loss no it will be the guy in the back of the airliner. So that is why the airlines deserve to have the system tailored for them. If business and private aviation can function in whats left they are welcome but until they pay as they go they do not deserve an equal piece of the pie. Right now business aviation continues to use political clout to push there way threw the system. I know of an incident with in the year when ITT got a delay. They called their politician, he called the FAA command center, who inturn called, the control tower putting pressure on the controller who was already working delayed traffic. To get them off his back the controller stopped working the other traffic and re-filed the timed out flight plan
    of ITT (they had forgotten to change their time). Then got them an immediate release putting them ahead of air carriers who had been waiting over an hour. Not only did they move to the head of the line they caused an additional 10 minute delay for everyone else. Airlines could never get away with that.

  6. Joel Jenkinson Says:

    Rob,

    Thank you for the compliment, but I can think of several folks in the GA community who would be better qualified than I am to serve on Mr. LaHood’s panel if he saw fit to invite GA to the table. Robert Olislagers at Denver Centennial (http://www.centennialairport.com/) would be a good choice, as would Tim O’Donnell, chairman of AAAE’s General Aviation Committee. There are many more, including all of the folks you already mentioned.

    That being said, I feel the need to take issue with some of the comments from “c Emmons”. He states that “you question Mr. LaHood’s choices based on your evaluation of their experience level” when you have quite clearly stated that your issue with Mr. LaHood’s choices is “that Jack Pelton’s the ONLY guy in the group that doesn’t somehow relate to the airline industry.” I agree that Mr. LaHood picked some good, experienced people; my response to his selections was that it is a line-up of the “usual suspects” and as you note, there is almost no GA representation.

    “c Emmons” also incorrectly asserts that “The airline will pay fuel surcharges the same as the G5.” The Federal Excise Tax (FET) on aviation fuels applies to non-commercial operations; commercial operations pay taxes on tickets (or charter fees) and shipping costs; see http://www.nbaa.org/admin/taxes/federal/fet/ or http://www.conklindd.com/Page.aspx?cid=1064 for more information on this subject.

    I will agree with “c Emmons” that the traveling public deserves representation on this panel, but that is the only point in that comment with which I would agree.

  7. Secretary LaHood Appoints Committee on the Future of Aviation and General Aviation Representation is almost non-existent? | Plane Conversations Says:

    […] Mark in his May 17 Jetwhine Blog post (http://www.jetwhine.com/2010/05/the-future-of-aviation-lahood-style/) says it better than I could ever say it. We ought to be Mad as Hell and we should not take it […]

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    […] question again is why we aren’t working as a group on this. Wait you say? What about DOT Secretary Ray LaHood’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC) seminars coming soon to a town near […]

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