Spotlight on GA brings positives along with negatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. — General aviation is getting attention here, but the results are mixed between a favorable outlook and a more pessimistic future. The direction it will take seems to be determined more by affecting influences than on the industry.

The airlines cutting back on service presents a greater need for general aviation to maintain air transportation for all needs, from business travel, to cargo to emergencies. According to Forbes magazine, the 29 largest hub airports lost 8.8% of their yearly scheduled domestic flights in the six years between 2006 and 2012. Smaller airports with scheduled airline traffic reported a 21.3% drop.

The expected outlook for domestic airlines in the future is to continue to retrench into fewer places, cutting the less profitable markets. This means a greater need for GA flights and serviceable GA airports. Business, particularly, needs air service to communities not served well by the airlines. That is not just corporate jets, but singles and light twins as well, because businesses of all sizes are helped by air transportation.

These are positive signs for the future, but companies today are reluctant to move ahead to buy a plane (or make other large purchases) because of uncertainty of future costs and operations.

Much of that uncertainty comes from the Obama administration’s insistence on a $100 per flight user fee for some GA flights and a change in the tax write-off.

People connected with the industry are reluctant to be openly critical of any politician, but will express views anonymously The flight fee is seen by many as just a part of the anti-general aviation attitude of the current administration. Some believe the threat to close general aviation control towers, the FAA’s new approaches to safety issues, and the agency’s plan to charge the Experimental Aircraft Association for controller overtime, travel and per diem expenses at the annual AirVenture fly-in, could be more than a response to sequester. The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a number of recommendations for GA safety.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta recently called together heads of general aviation groups to talk more about safety. The meeting also included representatives from the NTSB. The current stress on aviation safety is happening despite a decline in accidents, although a slight increase in rates. Some fear it might be an indication of clearing airspace for commercial flights after NextGen is workable.

There are bright spots coming from Capitol Hill. General aviation caucuses are active in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. When the FAA was publicly talking about closing towers — which many thought was an administration bluff in an attempt to scare Congress into stopping sequestration — a group of 44 senators pushed the FAA to use money included in a bill to end sequester-related airline flight delays to keep the towers open.

Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) recently introduced a bill to set a deadline for restructuring outdated FAA regulations. A bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

When introducing his bill, Pompeo said the president’s fee proposal, requested reduction in tax breaks for business aircraft, and constant referral to business flyers as “fat cats” hurts the industry. “The president gives that speech, it spooks the market,” he noted.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), who represents a district in the president’s Chicagoland, said he is confident Congress will not go for the proposed flight fees. His district has seen a gradual erosion of aviation jobs.

A member of Congress recently commented that a better understanding of general aviation by the public at large would make their jobs easier.

The groups in Washington representing the various segments of general aviation generally are more optimistic than pessimistic about where GA is going. But, like a duck, they look calm on top, but underneath are paddling like the devil.


  1. Maynard McKillen says

    “The direction (GA) will take seems to be determined more by affecting influences than on the industry.”

    I struggle not to laugh when the long-coddled crybaby execs in the GA industry (Hell, in corporate America!), and their lackeys in congress, cower before that howling demon, the user fee, and that dreadful reaper, always fatal if encountered, the shortened depreciation schedule, two of the most pathetic paper dragons if ever there were any.

    Decades of tax welfare and government largesse have put spare tires around the mid-sections of the entrepreneurial elites, made them sluggish, soft, prone to self-indulgence and possessed by an overweening sense of entitlement. Too out-of-shape to compete on the world market, they reach for the low-hanging fruit to be found by tweaking and removing the necessary regulations on their avarice.

    For decades they watched while the middle class was gutted and preyed upon by supply-side jackals who voted the elephant party. Now the market for their goods, at one time the most dependable, consistent and predictable market the world had ever seen, that middle class, has little discretionary income. Had these business-idiots thought to support economic and political policies that kept a powerful middle class first and foremost, this economy wouldn’t have devolved into a hollow shell, and aircraft manufacturers wouldn’t be bowing and scraping to the neurotic whims of the corporatists.

    Spence is carelessly repeating the hogwwash that, “The flight fee is seen by many as just a part of the anti-general aviation attitude of the current administration.” Anti-GA my arse. More republican propaganda by the irrational Obama-haters. Get psychiatric help, fer crissake. This administration is continuing a policy begun by the Bush Administration to end taxpayer subsidies for corporate jet flight routing services in controlled airspace. Evidence? Here:

    On April 23rd, 2007, the FAA, with a Bush appointee at the helm, released, Fact Sheet– Impact of Administration’s Financing Proposal on General Aviation.
    Here are a few gems from the document:
    The allocation found that GA drives approximately 16 percent of the costs of air traffic services. Nearly 10 percent is related to high performance GA aircraft such as corporate jets, while 6 percent is related to piston GA aircraft. These figures do not include flight service stations, which largely serve the GA community.
    In contrast, GA currently contributes just over 3 percent of the taxes that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

    -The cost allocation does assume that a corporate jet flying the exact same flight as an airline jet uses the same services and drives the same costs.

    -The bottom line is that under the current system, the family of four taking a budget vacation is subsidizing the CEOs flying on a corporate jet.

    So enough blather from the idiots who brainlessly demonize the current administration.

  2. Chuck Nelms says

    I have to say that some of each seem to be pretty much on target. But if we could get each on the same page just think what could be done. This is true the stock market and company earning are at an all time high but that does ease all the factors of business growth. Business growth is based more on future outlooks than it is current issues. With that in mind our goverments decisions or lack of decisions to include the President and his admin. the future is hard to make a solid decision to expand on business.

    Unemployment numbers I think are a litle skewed, Their are unemployed people and their are unemployable people in America. There are help wanted signs posted all over the place and companies that are trying to hire. However they may be job that are less desirable and may not be the 6 figure job that you want. There may also be a person standing next to that sign holding a piece of cardboard wanting a handout instead of a job. Then when a company does do a hiring process and make selection and calls the person they state I didnt want the job I just needed to interview to keep my unemployment going and ones that are willing to come to work can’t pass the background or drug screening. But Obama is making jobs so if you were layed off from the computer service, airline or auto fields for example he has a job for you it is building bridges and roads.

    Safety is a valuable asset to GA and you can see it is made a top priority. If it was made as much of a priority with the opperation of autos it could save alot of lives. However their are alot more people driving cars than there is flying planes so for goverment to press on them would sure end up with some resistance, how many bail out checks has the goverment sent to aviation businesses. But there will never be a day you fly a plane past another each at 70 mph divided by (2) 4 inch yellow lines. If the FAA or the NTSB regulated this it would change well they would try untill the goverment told them to back off due to votes. The value of life greatly diminishes when it might get you voted out of office.

    This is just a personal oppinion as I am sure we all have one.

  3. Venus Savage says

    Umm, last I checked the stock market and corporate profits are hitting record levels, our persistent unemployment favors employers, and CEOs are receiving record bonuses.

    Gulfstream already as 200 orders on the G650.

    Meanwhile, American business wants to sell to the middle class, but don’t pay middle class wages.

    @KM—your bias is showing.

    @TDW—The figure I read is that light certificated aircraft are about 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, and have an equivalent safety record with most high performance motorcycles.

    • Fred v says

      Wrong. GA accident rate (including weekend warriors) is 6.53 per 100,000 hrs. That’s 1 accident per every 1.8 million miles flown.

  4. Ed Seaton says

    Alot of Aviation accidents are cause by Pilots that has too big of an ego.They think they are bullet proof.And in some of the cases they have more money than sense.They think they know more then there Instructors.After they pass the flight test,they don’t want a Flight Instructor in there Plane.Those kind of Pilot you’ll never get through to.Like the poster say’s,Aviation in itself is not inherenty dangerous,but to an even greater degree then the Sea(I might add,also the road)it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness,incapacity or neglect.Ed Seaton,ATP,Flight and Ground Instructor.

  5. Peter Gottlieb says

    The tax issue is a threat which we must fight but I fear there is a much larger, and existential threat looming. Agents from “Homeland Security” have been tracking small private aircraft on routine flights and meeting an increasing number where they land with a very strong law enforcement mobilization, detaining the pilot and crew for hours, and searching the aircraft. They admit they now track all aircraft movements. I fear this is part of a move to either kill off GA or to force GA to use the same security measures (provided by TSA) as airlines, and shoulder the costs associated (that of course would force the closure of most small airports). No drugs or other contraband has been found as a result of these searches nor does any other study I have ever heard of show that GA is more of a problem than automobile use, and neither should be subject to warrantless intrusive searches and crew detainments. Compared to an unlikely to pass tax I’m much more scared of what these armed confrontations portend for the future of GA.

  6. John Hogan says

    Obama treats corporate travel via private jet as “fat cats”. He somehow concludes that corporate jets don’t deserve a write off like other corporate assets. Amazingly, he travels in a 747. He doesn’t need a write off since we, along with the evil “fat cat” corporations pay for his regal class of travel.
    There are “fat cats”, but they are not in corporations, they are our elected political leaders.

  7. DON MILLER says

    As a supplier to the general aviation industry, both oem and aftermarket, and the recreational marine market, the upcoming fuel requirements alone will severely curtail any growth in these markets. Why would anyone purchase an aircraft using 100LL if the product might not be available in 10 years or a boat engine if the warrantee is void if E-15 gas is used. Both are distinct possibilites in the not so distant future. Uncertainty is the restrictor of growth and this administration will eliminate any industry it opposes through this type of intimidation. They will chip away until the industry is gone.

  8. Paul says

    I would like to see elaboration on the 3X safer statistic. I notice the “light type certificated) so I guess that means no experimentals. Any other limitations. This figure is quite different from # I have heard before. It is based on miles, hours? I would really like more detail

  9. Tom Troll says

    This is ridiculous. This is more of the continuous stream of propaganda from the wealthy wing nuts of the GOP. Everyone is screaming that we need to cut spending. And when they do cut spending, everyone cries “don’t close MY tower”. The government is now asking those that need the air transportation system to support them to chip in to pay for it.

    The FAA costs money to run. Congress already has a tax credit that goes to the jet airplane manufacturers — one that could easily cover the funding gaps in the FAA if it were cancelled. If you read the press on the GA fee of $100 a flight, you would think it applied to everyone — it doesn’t — it only affects planes that are 7,500 pounds or more. You know, the planes that cost millions of dollars — the same planes that get the massive tax credits when they are built.

    If we don’t find a way to pay for things, they are going to go away. So do you want to pay more in taxes, or do you want less government? You don’t get it both ways. Don’t want to tax the rich? Fine, then raise taxes on the middle class some more to help the rich keep more of their money. Don’t like that? Then get them to pay their taxes. Or cut government spending and stop bitching when your favorite government service goes away. Right now they are cutting food stamp programs for children because our once great America can no longer afford to feed its poor and destitute. Don’t you think folks that fly airplanes that cost $4,000+ per hour to run should pay something for their multi-million dollar airports and towers?

    In my opinion, if the rich are unwilling to pay their fair share of the air transportation system, they should stop whining about government spending. Stop posting these ridiculous “news” articles — it’s not news, it’s propaganda. And stop whining about Obama Care, sequestration, and unions. Your lifestyle is well beyond what many human beings will ever experience, but your crying is pathetic.

  10. Terry D Welander says

    Both the NTSB and the FAA have ignored the fact that light type certificated aircraft
    are at least 3 times safer than the safest autos. The NTSB needs to focus on auto safety.
    The FAA needs to keep auto safety as a baseline whenever talking about aviation
    safety. So far, both agencies have been looking foolish talking about aviation safety
    when auto safety and most other forms of transport safety direly in need their attention.

    Look at the train wrecks in the news lately. And they insist on talking about aviation safety. Talk about over regulation extraordinaire of aviation. Who will figuratively throttle or silence these damn fools talking about aviation safety when every other type of transport safety appears out of control.

    In one of those rare occurences, the FAA review of towers based on use is the only factual way to keep aircraft control towers open. Or again, our worst enemy on this one is Congress for getting in the way of closing these control towers which do not have the traffic to justify them. Anyone or any group who wants to keep their under utilized
    control tower, just pay for it directly. Do not ask the Feds to pay for anything. All they
    do is waste money most places they spend it.

    Worse, the appearance is we have a hidden fascist campaign here. Congresses favorite
    contributors use these low use airports and certainly want to help them keep their under
    used control towers open. No money involved, just trading favors, otherwise known as fascism; or really, really, really disgusting beyond anything I have recently seen.

  11. Kent Misegades says

    Good article, but who is surprised? Our president attacks one industry – corporate aviation – vilifying it in his inaugural address, and voila people stop flying and Cessna suspends production of light jets. Reluctance to invest is not limited to aviation though – with much of the federal government out of control, business has no idea what is coming down the pike. Obama-Care, NLRB, union thuggery, TSA goon squads and now an IRS that is used to suppress voters and harass those who oppose the Feds. It is going to get worse before it gets better.

    • says

      You must be kidding! Where do you get these stupid ideas. Profit margins are higher than ever at 11%. We still have high unemployment and underemployment not because of the power of the as you said union thuggery (unions represent less than 7% of the work force) but do to the egregious greed of corporate America who doesn’t want to pay the workers who built their companies and this country. All I can say is wake up!!!!!!

    • Kimberly Bush says

      Just curious if anyone besides me thought it a bit ridiculous that AUTOMOBILE manufacturers, intent of getting Congress to give them more money FLEW to the meetings? Why not drive one of their top of the line models in to remind what they were asking be saved? Not the jobs associated with the building of a Lincoln Mark VII (or whatever number they are at now), but the BEAUTY of the transportation mode itself.
      Same thing is going on in aviation, folks. Are you willing to trust a mode of transportation (driven by strangers who you can only HOPE have the proper qualifications to hold their job) when you have never TOUCHED it physically prior to your first time using it.
      I flew in to a Young Eagles event recently. One young girl, their with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program decided at the very last minute that there was no way she was going for a plane ride.
      I too her outside and made her stand in front of the Stinson, to have a photo taken. Then I walked her around the aircraft and told her to touch it, carefully.
      There will always be another event. Quit telling people to ‘Stay away from my plane”.

  12. John W. says

    The biggest problem with GA is the manufacturers themselves.

    In 1982 the Federal Minimum Wage was $3.35 per hour (U.S. Dept of Labor, 2012) and the price of a new Cessna Skyhawk was $33,950. Thus in 1982, an aspiring aircraft owner making minimum wage would have to work 10,134.33 hours (before taxes) to buy a new, 1982 Cessna 172. In 2011, the Federal Minimum Wage was $7.25 per hour, and the price of a new Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP was $307, 500. The hypothetical minimum-wage pilot would have to work 39, 677.42 hours – nearly four times as many hours as his 1982 counterpart had to work – to afford the same model aircraft. Indeed, a person today who is making a middle-class salary of $20 per hour would have to work 15,375 hours for his or her new plane. That’s right: Today, someone making more than twice the highest minimum wage in the country would have to work half-again as many hours to buy a new Skyhawk, as a minimum-wage worker did in 1982.

    It can be said that a new Cessna was more affordable for a person making minimum wage in 1982, than it is for a person making a middle-class salary today.

    I have a hypothesis: The corporate owners of the small-plane manufacturers would rather sell expensive corporate aircraft than middle-class pleasure aircraft. The more piston-engine singles they sell, the more low-hour pilots will fly them. The more low-hour pilots who are flying, the greater the number of crashes. Crashes open companies up to lawsuits. So by concentrating production on aircraft that require a large number of hours and training to operate, and by discouraging Jimmy Weekender from buying his own airplane by pricing it out of his range, the companies reduce their liability exposure.

    The future of GA depends upon having pilots to fly the aircraft, whether those aircraft are used for poking holes in the sky, or if they are being used by small businesses. If manufacturers do not sell airplanes a middle-class wage-earner can afford, then getting people interested in GA and training new pilots to fly pleasure and business aircraft will not happen. The manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot. Flying has never been cheap, but manufacturers would do well to follow Henry Ford’s example and bring prices to the point where people will want to fly.

  13. Donald Reppert says

    You can’t have it both ways. If Obama really wants the usage fee, then eliminate the fuel surcharge. Otherwise, you have double taxation on aviation. By the way, what is the current financial status of the FAA Trust Fund? Last time I checked, it was in the billions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *