Category Archives: Aviation

Scant sympathy for Wichita in Mobile

Columnist K.A. Turner at the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala., saw irony but no surprise in the news of Boeing’s planned pullout of Wichita. “The Kansas political delegation, particularly then-U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, was generally seen as the most strident in its opposition to letting a ‘foreign company’ win the tanker war,” Turner wrote. “Never mind that the ‘foreigners’ – the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. – would have assembled the Air Force planes in Mobile, and that the company’s Airbus subsidiary has a 300-employee engineering center in Wichita. ” She noted that Tiahrt didn’t respond to a Press-Register call for comment about Boeing’s departure. “Nor did he join the initial chorus of shouts from politicians who felt betrayed. Boeing was his employer before his time in Congress, and Boeing is the first client listed on the website for the consulting firm Tiahrt opened after leaving office, so perhaps he delivered his response in person,” she wrote.

Pompeo would ax agency that could help Learjet

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, participated in the Bombardier Learjet expansion announcement Tuesday, saying “we are thrilled that you all have made the decision that this is a place you want to continue to grow.” But U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez told The Eagle editorial board that Pompeo, unlike many other Kansas elected officials, hadn’t sent a letter of support on behalf of a Learjet-related grant application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Wichita Airport Authority applied for a $2 million EDA public works grant to help defray the cost of a new parking lot for Learjet’s expansion. Pompeo has offered a bill to eliminate the 45-year-old EDA, railing against it on the House floor as a “wasteful” and ineffective “giant wealth-redistribution machine” and mocking its past grants. “Much like a stimulus bill or earmarks, the EDA provides loans and grants to pet projects of the administration in power,” he said. After the Learjet announcement, his spokeswoman told the editorial board that Pompeo’s opinion of the EDA hadn’t changed.

Soros link to Embraer unproved

E-mails going around claim that Brazilian-owned Embraer won the Air Force light-air-support aircraft contract as a “huge pay-off” to Democratic donor George Soros, after a competition from which Hawker Beechcraft was inexplicably excluded. But Snopes.com and truthorfiction.com found no information that Soros holds an ownership stake in Embraer or has had any direct investment dealings with it. Snopes.com reported instead that his status as a leading shareholder of China’s Hainan Airlines Group makes him, at most, an Embraer customer and therefore does not put him in a position to profit from the Embraer contract.

So they said

“Boeing to Wichita: Drop dead.” – Seattle Times headline on a column by Jon Talton, who concluded, “This time, Seattle got off easy. It may not next time”

“I think they’ll last as long as we do good work.” – Richard Perez, president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, on whether the hundreds of Boeing jobs moving to San Antonio will stay there

“It doesn’t make me happy to be a part of an institution with a 9 percent approval rating.” – Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, blaming Congress’ poll numbers on “the messiness of the process,” during a meeting with The Eagle editorial board

“My French is poor.” – Pompeo again, when asked by the editorial board related to wooing Airbus work to a post-Boeing Wichita

“It was, from my perspective, a good game.” – KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, meeting with the editorial board the morning after the KU-KSU game

Boeing, going, gone

As many feared, Boeing announced today that it is closing its Wichita facility. So much for its many promises that the Air Force tanker contract would support jobs in Wichita. The move will affect 2,100 workers in Wichita and will mean a loss of an estimated $1.5 billion in wages over 10 years.

Lawmakers right to be defiant on defense contract

Members of the Kansas delegation have the right attitude about last week’s confirmation that the Defense Department, having inexplicably dismissed Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 bid, awarded the $355 million light air support contract to Brazilian planemaker Embraer and U.S. contractor Sierra Nevada. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, called it “troubling that the United States Air Force would rather have these fighter aircraft built in another country, when jobs are needed so badly here at home. I will continue to fight for answers on this matter and remain committed to the men and women at Hawker Beechcraft who build world-class aircraft.” Before the announcement late last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, was similarly defiant: “It is simply wrong for the Obama administration to hire a Brazilian company to handle national security when we have a qualified and competent American company that can do the job.” Hawker filed suit last week over the “pre-award exclusion” of its bid, which the Air Force has not explained.

So much for Boeing’s promise on tanker jobs

A senior Boeing official reportedly told Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, that the company intends to finish the new tankers in Washington state and not in Wichita — this even though the company told Kansas officials both during and after it won the government contract that the deal would lead to 7,500 new jobs in Kansas. “The company’s refusal to ‘dance with the girl who brung them’ on the tanker contract is incomprehensible, and I urge Boeing’s senior leaders to reconsider this decision,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Obama still needs to visit Wichita

In his speech Tuesday in Osawatomie, President Obama mentioned that his mom was born in Wichita, her mother grew up in Augusta and her father was from El Dorado. “So my Kansas roots run deep,” he said. But it’s too bad Obama came to Kansas for an economic speech without giving more than lip service to this part of the state, which has suffered so deeply from aviation layoffs — a problem arguably aggravated by his serial criticisms of corporate jet owners. Before the speech, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, put out a statement reminding the president that Wichita was just 30 minutes away from Osawatomie by airplane: “Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and I have, repeatedly, asked the president to come to Kansas to see the world’s best aviation workforce.”

Good progress between unions, planemakers

It’s encouraging that both Boeing Wichita and Spirit AeroSystems reached tentative agreements last week with labor unions. Boeing’s Machinists union announced an agreement that extends its labor contract for four years. Spirit AeroSystems and its technical and professional union reached a tentative deal on a 9 1/2-year labor contract. Those contracts still must be ratified by union members, and there is continued concern about whether Boeing will close its Wichita plant. But it is good that union and company officials have been able to work together. Here’s hoping for a long and profitable future for the companies and their Wichita workers.

Pilots won’t have to wonder who’s tracking them

At a time when Congress can’t agree on much, Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and other members of the Kansas delegation succeeded in getting a measure to President Obama’s desk last week to protect the privacy of general aviation pilots by continuing the Block Aircraft Registration Request program. The Federal Aviation Administration had wanted to limit the program to those who could prove a “valid security concern,” meaning the movements of most general aviation flights could have been tracked by anyone via the Internet. Roberts said in a statement: “Had this legislation been blocked, it would have set a dangerous precedent that would jeopardize private citizens’ personal information and movements across the country.” Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, praised the move: “Members of the House and Senate have demonstrated their understanding that the administration’s effort to curtail the BARR program paves the way for unwarranted invasions of the privacy of aircraft owners and operators, threatens competitiveness for companies and poses a potential security risk for people aboard business airplanes.”

Aviation tax change would hurt workers, not CEOs

President Obama may think he is “clipping the wings of high-flying corporate CEOs” in proposing to end accelerated depreciation of business jets, “but the people who will really pay the price for this change in the tax code are the people who build these planes, as well as those who fly them, maintain them and service them,” wrote R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Buffenbarger noted that net factory billings for U.S. aviation manufacturers fell to less than $8 billion last year from more than $13 billion in 2008, and that retrenchment is at a level not seen since 2004. “The biggest losers have been industry workers who have lost their jobs,” he said. Breaking faith with jobless workers over what amounts to an applause line, Buffenbarger said, is “simply unconscionable.”

FAA has it backward, Roberts says

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., objects to the Federal Aviation Administration ending a program that protected the privacy of general aviation users. The Block Aircraft Registration Request program allows citizens and companies to “opt out” of having their aircraft movements tracked by anyone other than the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies. “I find it troubling that the Obama administration would associate removing the BARR program with the need for greater transparency,” Roberts said last week in a statement. “Transparency has everything to do with citizens being able to see how the government carries out its business, not the other way around.”

Shame on Congress for failing FAA

Maybe it pales in comparison with avoiding a default on the national debt, but extending the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding should have been a priority before Congress adjourned for five weeks. Because it left the FAA in limbo, 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 airport construction workers are off the job and $1.2 billion in ticket tax revenue will be lost (though mostly snapped up by airlines as revenue). Sadly, such a lack of leadership seems the norm on Capitol Hill.

New Learjet is Mexican-made

An article in the Wall Street Journal last week showed the challenge Wichita and the United States face in keeping aviation jobs. It reported how 85 percent of the Learjet 85, which is due out in 2013, will be manufactured in Mexico. “Five years ago, the building’s site in Queretaro was dry cactus fields. Now it is a booming assembly line of half-built fuselages and a staff of 1,600,” the newspaper reported. “. . . This fall, it plans to open another hangar-sized facility as it expands its production of fuselages and electrical harnesses for big-sellers like its Challenger business aircraft.” Mexico’s aerospace industry has averaged 20 percent growth the past five years and also attracted Cessna Aircraft Co. and suppliers for Boeing Co. and Airbus.

Standing together for aviation

How gratifying to see a show of bipartisan solidarity on behalf of planemaking Wednesday at the National Center for Aviation Training, where elected officials including Gov. Sam Brownback, Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh stood with one another and leaders from labor unions and business to call on President Obama to support the general aviation industry. The president can’t make more people buy business jets, which is what Wichita’s signature aircraft industry really needs to pull out of this devastating slump. But Obama can, and should, stop singling out corporate-jet owners for verbal abuse and proposed tax hikes — especially considering how little impact any resulting new revenue would have on the nation’s debt crisis.

Pompeo wants Obama to come to Wichita

As Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and others have done, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, has invited President Obama to tour Wichita’s airplane manufacturing plants. Pompeo sent a letter to Obama last week inviting him to “learn about the general aviation business and visit with the thousands of hardworking men and women who are dependent on this industry for their livelihood.” Pompeo said that, given Obama’s personal experience with Air Force One, he “must recognize that business jets are important productivity tools.” But “not only are business jets essential for productivity,” Pompeo wrote, “they support 1.2 million jobs across America and contribute more than $150 billion to the nation’s economy.”

Corporate-jet tax hike nonnegotiable?

The day before President Obama harped on the need to increase taxes on corporate-jet owners, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor that the GOP “would rather stop paying our men and women fighting overseas, force deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and throw even more Americans out of work than tell big oil companies and corporate-jet owners to pay their fair share.” He mentioned corporate-jet owners two more times, a day before Obama targeted them six times. The Daily Beast reported: “Democrats say they won’t back down. When asked to handicap where the tense talks over federal cuts stood, one Democratic Hill staffer described gutting the tax incentives for jets and other profitable industries simply as ‘the lowest hanging fruit, pretty much nonnegotiable.’”

Changing corporate-jet tax break won’t save much

During his press conference Wednesday, President Obama six times mentioned eliminating a tax loophole for corporate jets. But in the context of a $4 trillion deficit-reduction goal, the tax change would be “essentially meaningless,” a Washington Post fact-checker concluded, adding: “The item is so small the White House could not even provide an estimate of the revenue that would be raised, but other estimates suggest it would amount to $3 billion over 10 years. . . . The corporate jet loophole — which involves the fact that such assets can be depreciated over five years, rather than the seven for commercial jets — just is not going to raise a lot of money.”

Obama should stop picking on corporate jets

President Obama left no doubt at Wednesday’s news conference about how he feels about corporate jet owners, repeatedly mocking tax breaks for them, and for millionaires, billionaires and oil companies. “If you are a wealthy CEO or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the 1950s. And they can afford it,” Obama said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.” Obama is right about the need for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction. But can’t the president understand that such specific hostility toward corporate jets extends to those hardworking Americans who build them, and to a community such as Wichita that specializes in building them for the nation and world? Must he keep picking on aviation manufacturing?

Pro-con: Is NLRB correct to block Boeing plant?

According to the National Labor Relations Board charge, Boeing chose to set up its second 787 production line in North Charleston, S.C., in retaliation against the Machinists’ union because of repeated strikes against the company and the possibility the union could go on strike again. The NLRB is simply doing its job, defending the rights of workers to collectively bargain and to act in concerted activity. Were Boeing’s actions to go unchecked, companies would be free to coerce and intimidate workers, their unions and states into deals that primarily profit the company. This would make a mockery of the fundamental human right of workers to stand together in order to balance out the power of corporations. The NLRB issued the complaint against Boeing after a careful investigation, providing Boeing with every opportunity to defend itself. It even granted Boeing’s numerous requests for delay. In the end, the NLRB decided it was compelled to act in the face of Boeing’s admission that its move was motivated by its desire to avoid lawful collective bargaining. Boeing admitted to retaliating against the union and in so doing made an illegal transfer of work. Rather than blaming the NLRB for doing its job, we should all be asking why Boeing proceeded so recklessly with so much at stake. Boeing, grow up and face your responsibilities. — Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, in the Seattle Times

A common refrain among recession-weary Americans is that we don’t make anything in this country anymore. However, workers in South Carolina have a chance to make something — Boeing 787 Dreamliners that would be flown around the world — and yet Obama’s labor-cozy appointees to the National Labor Relations Board are intent on scuttling it. Boeing, a vital U.S. company, wants to build a plant in South Carolina and bring good-paying manufacturing jobs to the state. It already has poured billions into the facilities and hired 1,000 workers. But the NLRB filed a lawsuit last month to force Boeing back to Washington state, where workers would be represented by a union. The NLRB claims Boeing decided to open a nonunion plant in South Carolina in retaliation for past strikes in Washington. So what if it did? The NLRB’s action is beyond unsettling. The lawsuit, in effect, is an effort to tell an American company how to operate its business and to intimidate its officers. Shouldn’t Boeing be allowed to build a plant where it sees fit, assuming the state welcomes it with open arms, as South Carolina has? President Obama, who has been silent on this issue, needs to tell his appointees to the NLRB that this type of intimidation is unacceptable. If he doesn’t, it’s only a matter of time until it spreads to other parts of the country.
Denver Post

Boeing move not about punishing unions, CEO says

The National Labor Relations Board was “wrong and overreached its authority” in trying to block the Boeing Co. from opening its new factory in South Carolina, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary. The NLRB charges that Boeing built the plant in a right-to-work state to punish union-represented employees in Washington state. But McNerney argues that Boeing “made a rational, legal business decision about the allocation of our capital and the placement of new work within the U.S.” And he contends that “despite the ups-and-downs, we hold no animus toward union members, and we have never sought to threaten or punish them for exercising their rights, as the NLRB claims.”

‘Affordable Airfares’ living up to its name

Here is how the Affordable Airfares program at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport has paid off and why the Legislature needs to keep supporting it: The airport has had the country’s 11th-largest decrease in airfares since 2000. In the fourth quarter of last year, the average airfare out of Wichita was $345, which was less than the average fare of $367 in Oklahoma City and $360 in Tulsa. Though Kansas City’s average fare was lower, Wichita is closing the gap. In 2000, the average fare difference between Wichita and Kansas City was $138; now it’s $41.

Brownback understands importance of aviation

It’s encouraging that Gov. Sam Brownback is holding his first economic summit in Wichita Monday, and that it’s focusing on the aviation industry. Brownback understands how important this industry is to the Kansas economy. It’s also good that the summit is being held at the National Center for Aviation Training, 4004 N. Webb. NCAT needs continued state support to keep training aviation workers.

Billionaires boosting jumbo jet market

Sales of Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s to private clients are breaking records, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report blog. Boeing delivered 12 VIP jets in 2010 and has four new orders. Half a dozen Boeing 747-8s — each with a list price of $317 million — are on backlog for private customers, and a dozen Boeing 787s also are scheduled for sale. The blog said that sales of business jumbo jets offer further proof of the growing wealth divide between the hyper-rich (billionaires) and the mere millionaires.

Maintain funding for affordable airfares

The affordable airfares program at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport faces another hurdle this week, as the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to begin final deliberations on next year’s budget. Gov. Sam Brownback supports keeping $5 million in state funding for the program, which he noted is a “critical economic-growth initiative in south-central Kansas.” But some lawmakers, primarily from northeast Kansas, have questioned the program, and the funding barely survived an 11-11 Appropriations Committee vote last month. Given the tough budget choices the state faces, local lawmakers will have to work extra hard to keep this important funding in place.