March 21, 2013

As he has done a number of times in recent weeks, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) on March 20 publicly questioned an Obama administration official about recent White House mischaracterizations of business aviation, and what he earlier characterized as the “seemingly unending attacks this administration continues to direct at this essential aviation industry – i.e., general aviation.”

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Obama’s 2013 trade agenda, Roberts asked if acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis would agree that “the export of business aviation aircraft is a significant contributor to our balance of trade.”

Marantis responded in the affirmative, and the senator continued his questioning: “Why, then,” Roberts asked, “does the administration on one hand acknowledge and promote this uniquely American product… and then on the other hand vilifies and demonizes this great American industry?”

Roberts specifically noted the president’s repeated disparagement of business aircraft users. “I think we can do better than keeping on the reference to ‘fat cat corporate jets,’” he said. “We’re talking about several farmers and ranchers going together and getting a business aircraft so they can fly anywhere they want to fly to in regards to agriculture… I just want the president to knock it off,” the senator firmly concluded. Marantis indicated he would take that message back to President Obama.

The exchange between Roberts and Marantis marked the second time in recent weeks that the senator has looked to hearings involving Obama administration officials to send a clear signal that the mischaracterizations from the White House regarding business aviation will not go unchallenged.

During a Feb. 18 hearing on the confirmation of now-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Roberts chastised Lew about the president’s repeated calls to target tax-depreciation schedules for changes when discussing deficit reduction.

Noting that estimates indicate that adjusting depreciation schedules on an aircraft purchase would only raise between $200 to $300 million a year – or “two-millionths of a percent” of the projected fiscal year 2013 budget deficit – Roberts stressed that any such change could also be harmful across the entire general aviation industry. In making that point, Roberts referenced the small business owners and general aviation pilots who operate their aircraft on a variety of missions including medical flights, airborne search-and-rescue, disaster relief, and law enforcement and agricultural-support roles.

“We’re not talking about ‘fat cat corporate jets,’” he said at the Feb. 18 hearing. “The general aviation industry has become the piñata in regards to tax reform by this administration, and I’m more than a little tired of it.

“If the administration continues attacking these hard-working, largely unionized American workers… will we even have a U.S. general aviation manufacturing base in 10 years?” he asked in conclusion.

View a video of Senator Roberts’s Feb. 18 questioning of Lew.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed Roberts’ continued, passionate defense of all general aviation, including business aviation. Bolen noted that the senator is among several lawmakers, industry leaders and other officials who have lent their voices in support of the industry throughout the ongoing legislative battle over the country’s surging deficit, and the recent budget sequester.