Pompeo: “America Flies” grassroots effort to boost general aviation

In March, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Wichita and praised the city’s general aviation industry.

LaHood said he would return to Washington and encourage President Obama to come out for a visit.

In speeches two weeks later, Obama was criticizing owners of business jets, calling them “fat cats,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo said today at a news conference at the Kansas Aviation Museum.

It’s time to stand up and support American aviation jobs, Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that’s why he was unveiling a campaign called “America Flies.”

It’s a grassroots effort to get the word out about the importance of general aviation to Wichita and to the U.S.

“The last great manufacturing jewel left in America is the aviation industry,” Pompeo said. It’s one of the few remaining industries contributing positively to a balance of trade.

The America Flies website, www.americaflies.us, will be a place people can sign a petition asking Obama to support the industry. It’s also a place people will be able to share their stories of why the industry is important, he said.

The effort will also underscore the importance of general aviation to a variety of policy makers at the local, state and federal level, he said.

The industry contributes $150 billion to the U.S. economy a year and means 1.3 million jobs and $53 billion in payroll, said Dave Franson, executive director of the Wichita Aero Club.

Two-thirds of flights made in corporate jets are flown for business, Franson said. Seventy percent of the passengers are not executives.

“This is not about partisan politics,” Pompeo said. “This is about jobs. Good paying jobs for the best aviation work force in the world right here in Kansas.”

The aviation industry is not looking for a bailout.

“If you put a burden on this industry, industry will go,” Pompeo said. “Then if you want to have them, you’ll have to bail them out.”