Category Archives: Aviation

McConnell takes another step forward on tankers

kc-46atankerThe new KC-46A tanker mission at McConnell Air Force Base took another welcome step forward Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony for the infrastructure work, which includes three new hangars. McConnell was selected last year to be the main active-duty operating base for the tankers, and the first of 36 tankers are expected to begin arriving in early 2016. There has been some bickering lately between Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and his GOP primary challenger, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, about who deserves credit for the project. But many people worked for years to secure the project, which is a big and needed economic boost for the region. As Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told The Eagle editorial board Monday, “What a wonderful day for Wichita.”

Great to see new terminal will upgrade food, drink

airportnew2Restaurants can be just as important to the airport experience as airline service and building design, so it was great to see that the new terminal at the newly named Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport plans to kick things up a notch. The concession lease agreement with Georgia firm MSE Branded Foods on Tuesday’s City Council agenda calls for an interesting mix of local flavor, with a River City Brewing Co., and national names Chick-fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts. It limits MSE to charging customers no more than “local area street pricing” plus 10 percent – still a lot, but consistent with most airports’ gouging of what is, after all, a captive audience.

Pompeo-Tiahrt race a ‘referendum on earmarks’?

tiahrt2The Weekly Standard took note of the “curious challenge to a GOP incumbent” being posed by former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (in photo) to his successor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. An article by Mark Hemingway headlined “A Referendum on Earmarks” explored Tiahrt’s efforts to blame Wichita’s economic woes on Pompeo, quoting Tiahrt campaign manager Robert Noland as saying, “Half our aviation companies have left in the past couple years” and “when Todd was in office he did a lot of work to try to keep jobs here.” Hemingway observed: “It’s certainly a novel approach in the tea party era for a GOP candidate to signal they intend to bring home the federal bacon.”

Proud milestone for Wichita’s 737 workforce

Spirit737sendoffCongratulations to Spirit AeroSystems, whose festive send-off of the 5,000th Boeing Next-Generation 737 fuselage on Wednesday stood out as a proud moment in an otherwise unsettling week for aviation in Wichita. The murkiness of the future was underscored by the layoff notices at Bombardier Learjet and the raging rumors about Spirit’s plans for its parts fabrication and non-Boeing assembly work. But it was great to pause and celebrate the contributions of Spirit’s workforce and Wichita to the astonishingly enduring success of the 737.

Clinton and Boeing had ‘mutually beneficial relationship’

Pakistan USHillary Clinton and Boeing shared a “mutually beneficial relationship” while she was U.S. secretary of state, the Washington Post reported. For example, Clinton pressed Russian government officials in 2009 to buy dozens of Boeing aircraft. Two months after Boeing won that contract, it announced a $900,000 contribution to the William J. Clinton Foundation to rebuild schools in Haiti. “Clinton functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image,” the Post reported.

Welcome to the skies, Learjet 85

learjet85aCongratulations to all those in Wichita and worldwide whose skill and hard work readied Bombardier Aerospace’s Learjet 85 for takeoff Wednesday from Mid-Continent Airport. It took 6 1/2 years for the midsize business jet to go from announcement to first flight, during a period that included a brutal recession. But the successful test further affirms that Wichita’s status as Air Capital of the World is a thing of the future, not just the past. Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement also offering congratulations: “Many thanks to the Learjet 85 team for its hard work in accomplishing this significant milestone in the program and Bombardier for its continued investment in Wichita.”

Governance switch helped make airport name change possible

midcontinentAs the Wichita City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to finalize the renaming of Mid-Continent Airport as the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, it did so over the objections of the airport advisory board, which voted 10-1 Monday to oppose the change. That remarkable fact – that the citizen board assigned to advise the city on airport matters disagreed with such a historic decision yet was powerless to stop it – was made possible by the City Council’s 1999 decision to replace what had been a governing Wichita Airport Authority with an advisory board. Then-Mayor Bob Knight advocated the controversial change, saying the authority board was too focused on replacing then-airports director Bailis Bell and wasn’t doing enough to bring low-fare service to Wichita. Dave Bayouth, an advisory board member who again urged against the name change Tuesday, also sat on the autonomous authority board and criticized its dissolution, saying in 1999 that “the public does not want more government running anything.”

Obama should fly his big plane to Wichita

obamaaf1During a recent White House event to announce advanced manufacturing hubs in Detroit and Chicago, President Obama punctuated a statement about his administration’s efforts to promote 3-D printing and other high-tech advances with this: “These are all ambitious goals, but this is America – that’s what we do, we’re ambitious. We don’t make small planes.” Really? That would be news to a general aviation hub such as Wichita. And it was an unfortunate choice of words for a president who recently signed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

City smart to invest in Kansas Aviation Museum

aviationmuseum2The future of aviation in Wichita may be uncertain, but the preservation of its past is in good hands at the Kansas Aviation Museum, which received welcome approval from the Wichita City Council last week for $1.8 million in needed upgrades. The to-do list includes handicapped-accessible restrooms, an elevator, and a heating and air conditioning system for the 25,000 square feet of the former Wichita airport terminal without climate control. The museum has raised $900,000 for the improvements, which should help it attract more facility rentals and better serve visitors.

Long, slow climb for aviation industry

073010learjetThe difficult news for Wichita and its aviation workers continues, as Bombardier announced Tuesday that it was cutting 350 more jobs at its Learjet plant. The company announced furloughs earlier this month and laid off 200 workers in December. Though the nation’s overall economy is improving, and there are forecasts for strong future growth in plane orders, the aviation industry is still struggling to pull out of the Great Recession. Total employment at Wichita’s five largest aviation manufacturers is down more than 11,000 employees, or about 31 percent, from the end of 2008.

Shared commitment to NCAT is welcome

101910workforceIt’s good to see the city of Wichita and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce both advocating for restoration of state funding for the National Center for Aviation Training, a priority that also received a lot of stated support at Thursday’s legislative forum. The Legislature docked NCAT’s $5 million funding for the current fiscal year by $2 million, and carried forward that funding level for fiscal 2015. That move, which forced NCAT to pull back on equipment and training, was at the inexplicable urging of some area lawmakers – and at an especially poor time for the state to be undermining its commitment to high-level aviation and other technical training.

Great first flight for Scorpion

scorpionCongratulations to the team at Wichita’s Cessna Aircraft responsible for Textron AirLand’s Scorpion, which saw the military light attack aircraft go from design to Thursday’s successful first flight in less than 24 months. Now, the hope is that Wichita’s workforce and expertise will be called upon for more than the project’s testing and early production.

New aviation law is a model for collaboration

pompeo2Congratulations to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita – and to the general aviation industry – on the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which President Obama signed into law Wednesday. The new law updates and streamlines the certification process for general aviation manufacturers, which should encourage more innovation and improve safety. Pompeo worked closely on the bill with the Federal Aviation Administration, industry officials, labor union representatives and his Democratic colleagues in Congress. This hard work and collaboration are why the bill became law, and a model for how Washington should work.

Why not build 777X in Wichita?

boeingwichitasignIt’s a long shot that Boeing would build its new 777X in Wichita. If it leaves Washington state, it’s more likely to go somewhere without strong unions. Still, as our Tuesday editorial notes, Wichita has a lot to offer, including the property Boeing is vacating, the skilled workforce and reliable supplier network, and local aerospace assets such as the National Center for Aviation Training and Wichita State University’s National Center for Aviation Research. And as Richard Aboulafia, aviation analyst with the Teal Group, told the Seattle Times, choosing a site without airplane manufacturing experience is “just really a bad idea. You are adding multiple layers of risk both in terms of workforce and infrastructure.”

Kansas planemakers can’t afford more shutdowns

beechcraftkingairThis should be reason enough for the Kansas congressional delegation to avoid more government shutdowns: The 16-day impasse in October delayed 156 airplane deliveries worth $1.9 billion, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Whether or not they agreed with the Obama administration’s decision to deem the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Registration office nonessential and lay off employees, the Kansas Republicans in Congress should recognize that the cost of another shutdown would be too great for Kansas’ planemakers and fragile economy.

Now, president needs to sign Pompeo’s bill

pompeo,mikeThe Air Capital can thank Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, for the victory of the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act, which won final congressional approval last week and moved to President Obama’s desk. Amid a toxic political atmosphere, Pompeo worked with the Federal Aviation Administration and industry representatives to not only improve the regulatory environment for general aviation but also prove that Congress and the White House can still come together on needed legislation. And as National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen put it: “Streamlining the certification process for general aviation manufacturers, while preserving important safety requirements, will lead to swifter adoption of new aircraft designs and vital safety equipment, benefiting everyone from pilots and their passengers to manufacturers.” Now, the president needs to sign the bill.

Support McConnell by attending public hearing

The public needs to show its support for McConnell Air Force Base and the expansion of its refueling tanker fleet by attending a public hearing from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 29th and Oliver. The hearing is hosted by the U.S. Air Force and is part of its final decision process on whether to make McConnell the first main operating base for new tankers. Those who attend the hearing can make a verbal statement, submit written testimony, or just sign-in to show their support for McConnell, which has an estimated annual economic benefit to the Wichita area of $619 million. It is important that as many people as possible attend the hearing.

The longer the shutdown, the worse the problems

Many Kansans have been somewhat cavalier about the partial federal government shutdown, because it hasn’t directly affected them yet. But the longer the shutdown drags on, the bigger the problems and the more lives it will affect. As The Eagle reported Friday, the shutdown already has brought aviation sales to a halt, because aircraft registrations no longer can be obtained through the Federal Aviation Administration. The shutdown also means that some aircraft can’t get inspected. “It’s having a huge economic effect on businesses small and large,” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association. Enough with the grandstanding. End the shutdown and let people go back to work.

Wichita should build Textron AirLand’s Scorpion long term

Congratulations to those at Cessna Aircraft involved in the secretive development since early 2012 of Textron AirLand’s Scorpion, a light jet for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and attack. The prototype was unveiled in Maryland on Monday by parent company Textron, as Cessna president and CEO Scott Ernest revealed the project locally in a speech to the Rotary Club of Wichita. Testing and early production will be done in Wichita for the all-composite jet, which borrows the technology of the Citation business jets. Now, as Textron seeks customers, the state and local governments and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition need to do everything they can to keep Scorpion production in Wichita long term. Textron spokesman Dave Sylvestre said: “There isn’t an aircraft like it.” And there isn’t an aviation-manufacturing workforce better suited to build it than Wichita’s.

Should Wichita rename its new airport?

Jan Harrison and Phil Thompson of 104.5 “The Fox” started a petition drive to name the new airport terminal “Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport.” So far, more than 850 people support the idea, including former Sen. Bob Dole. What do you think? Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is an OK name, but as Harrison argues, it “is not memorable and a bit lackluster.” It’s also a hand-me-down name, as we took it after Kansas City renamed its airport.

Pompeo aviation bill a model for collaboration

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is confident that his Small Airplane Revitalization Act – which passed the House unanimously last month – will be approved next month by the Senate and signed soon after by President Obama. The bill, which updates small aircraft certification regulations, is one of few approved by the House this year. A key reason why this bill made it through is that Pompeo worked hard to get input and support from different stakeholders, including government regulators and the Machinists union (which Pompeo praised as being very helpful). Because of this input, the final bill was better than the original draft, Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board. If only such outreach and collaboration were the norm in Congress, rather than a rare exception.

Historic order for Beechcraft is well-timed

Congratulations to Beechcraft Corp. for landing the biggest order for propeller aircraft in the history of general aviation. The $1.4 billion order from new company Wheels Up for up to 105 King Air 350i aircraft  includes maintenance, and should bolster hiring and help secure Beechcraft’s future into 2015. That’s a welcome development for Beechcraft, especially coming just six months after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And what’s good for Beechcraft is good for Wichita, just as it has been for 81 years.

Pompeo’s aviation bill triumphs in unanimous House vote

The U.S. House passed Rep. Mike Pompeo’s Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013 on Tuesday with a 411-0 vote – astonishing in the context of so much Capitol Hill dysfunction and dissent. It was just two months ago that the Wichita Republican introduced the bill, which has the support of the Machinists union as well as aviation industry groups. It grew out of the recommendations of a Federal Aviation Administration rule-making panel composed of aviation experts and industry representatives. Politico, as an example of what the measure aims to replace, noted that current FAA regulations specify the type of Bunsen burner that aviation companies must use when conducting flammability tests. Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday: “These new streamlined regulations will decrease costs, increase safety and improve global competitiveness.” That means the new rules should benefit Wichita’s planemakers and economy. But first the bill needs to pass the Senate, where it’s being championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Congratulations to Pompeo for showing that Congress still can work as intended when it wants to and the cause is right.

Governor among Kansas’ aviation salesmen

Good for Gov. Sam Brownback and Commerce Secretary Pat George for planning to join the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition and businesses such as Beechcraft Corp., Bombardier Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems at the Paris Air Show this week. With $2.07 billion in exports last year and more than 30,000 workers, Kansas’ aerospace industry remains a global heavyweight. But the fight to defend and build market share is fierce. For example, Wichita’s three business jetmakers now build 38 percent of all corporate jets, down from 70 percent less than a decade ago. As Brownback told The Eagle’s Molly McMillin this month, it’s time to promote Kansas’ aviation industry to the world and drum up new business. “We have to go sell that,” he said. He’s right to do so personally.

Did president ever say ‘corporate fat cat jet owners’?

Politico highlighted the Light Aircraft Revitalization Act, the legislation recently introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (in photo), R-Wichita, to boost general aviation by streamlining the certification process and lowering costs. He said its passage would help the “very, very troubled” aircraft-manufacturing industry in Wichita. “You cannot have a tax and regulatory structure that puts American manufacturing at a decided global disadvantage. And that’s what I think we have today,” Pompeo said. Politico questioned Pompeo’s claim that President Obama has made “dozens and dozens of speeches in which he says ‘corporate fat cat jet owners.’ You can talk to the folks at these businesses; they will all tell you: ‘The president gives that speech; it spooks the market.’” According to Politico, “a LexisNexis search didn’t turn up any references of Obama using the phrase, and the White House had no record of it.” Perhaps, but the president’s policy proposals and rhetoric regarding corporate jets and their owners speak for themselves.