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President's Perspective

In the Nation's Capital, a Bumpy Ride for Business Aviation

By Ed Bolen

NBAA President and CEO Ed BolenAs the fourth quarter of the year arrives and our industry gathers for another NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention, it's a good time to take stock of the challenges and opportunities we've seen in 2011.

As we know, the business aviation community, like many industries, continues to rebuild in this still-turbulent economy. Unfortunately, people's confidence that a full recovery will be a reality in the near term has been held in check by disparaging comments and punitive policy proposals emanating from Washington.

Consider, for example, the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) announcement in March that it would essentially eliminate the Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, which allows companies using business aviation to "opt out" of having flights tracked by terrorists, cyber-stalkers, paparazzi, criminals, business competitors or anyone else with an Internet connection.

The general aviation community has been joined by business groups, privacy advocates and a host of congressional lawmakers in pointing out that the DOT's BARR changes would represent an invasion of privacy of aircraft operators, a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to the persons aboard the aircraft. Nevertheless, DOT is pressing ahead, and as of this writing, NBAA continues to challenge the plan in court and on Capitol Hill.

While grappling with the DOT's plan for the BARR, our industry has also had to deal with President Obama's decision to target companies using business aircraft for punitive treatment. In a June 29 press conference, he repeatedly denigrated business aviation, apparently to make his case for adjusting aircraft depreciation schedules to help close the federal government's budget deficit.

Following the president's news conference, my e-mail inbox was overflowing with comments from NBAA Members, who were appalled by his attempt to vilify business aviation – an industry that is critical for U.S. citizens, companies and communities. NBAA's forceful, continuing response has included commentary for CNN, CNBC, FOX News, National Public Radio and dozens of other national and local news outlets.

Of course, the latest, and certainly the worst, threat has been renewed talk of user fees for business aviation. As policymakers have looked for ways to reduce the deficit, they explored user fees as a potential revenue source. Our industry can be pleased with the strong message of opposition NBAA Members across the country sent to their elected officials to oppose such a plan. However, this is clearly an issue that will require continued vigilance.

Fortunately, while some in Washington may not fully understand or appreciate business aviation, many government officials do – over half of the nation's states have issued proclamations recognizing the industry's value. One quarter of the lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and one third of all U.S. senators belong to their respective chamber's GA caucuses.

So, despite the turbulence we've seen in the Washington policy arena this year, business aviation is moving forward, thanks in no small part to your support. We know we can continue to count on it as we look to the future.

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