Business aviation continues to attract unwelcome attention from the US government. Since President Obama's re-election the White House has resumed its targeting of general aviation, citing a nonexistent corporate jet tax "loophole."
In a media briefing on Feb 5, Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney referred to this alleged loophole, saying it gives tax advantages to the wealthy. He went on to say that ending subsidies to corporate jet owners would be a way to raise revenues. Carney's comments, which were aimed at the business aviation community, are the most recent made by the Obama administration amid the unprecedented fiscal challenges faced by the US.
Firing back quickly at the White House comments, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS 4th District), issued a letter urging his colleagues to "get the facts about general aviation," adding that "there is no corporate jet tax loophole."
Congressman Pompeo explained that the current tax code, implemented through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, changed the depreciation schedule for all noncommercial aircraft (including cropdusters and single-engine pistons) from 5 to 7 years. He went on to say that he is not a proponent of "special carve-outs" or "tax loopholes," but believes it is "wrong to target the depreciation period for GA aircraft to advance a narrow political goal of class warfare. Singling out [this industry] will harm the 1.2 million hard-working men and women who make a living building and servicing these aircraft."
In a similar rebuttal, NBAA Pres & CEO Ed Bolen issued a statement on the same day, saying the White House should "focus on reality rather than rhetoric," referring to Carney's comments. In addition to stating the positive impact that GA has on the US economy, Bolen called the statement "misleading" and described the proposed changes by the Obama administration as doing "almost nothing to seriously address the nation's debt and the potential to harm a great American industry in the process."
MDW (Midway, Chicago IL) airport privatization is back in full swing. In January, the City of Chicago received approval from FAA for its revised preliminary application for airport privatization and was seeking an airport operator through an RFQ open through Feb 22.
Chicago first submitted the application under the Airport Privatization Pilot Program in Sep 2006, when the city was led by Mayor Richard Daley. Chicago's current mayor, Rahm Emanuel (D-IL 5th District), recently resubmitted the application which reduced the proposed lease from 99 years to "fewer than 40 years" and required the operator to make an initial payment to the city plus a share of each year's airport revenue, as opposed to paying the city upfront in a single lump sum under the Daley plan.
FAA is only allowing one large hub airport to participate in the program, so applications for other large hub airports have been placed on a standby list while Chicago finds a private operator and sorts out the details of its application.
In an interesting twist, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, asking his office to approve the city's transaction only if Chicago returns $375 million in airport grant funds provided by the federal government under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for runway, taxiway and terminal improvements since 1982.
Durbin's letter noted that "the federal government has borrowed heavily to make investments in Midway," even though it is widely known that AIP funds come exclusively from the Aviation Trust Fund, which is sourced by aviation user taxes paid by passengers, airlines and users of airports and the airway system.
In another contradiction to Durbin's letter, FAA's Airport Privatization Pilot Program specifically states that the "airport owner or lease holder may be exempt from repayment of federal grants, return of property acquired with federal assistance, and the use of proceeds from the airport's sale or lease to the used exclusively for the airport purposes." It is not known what provoked the senator's letter to the DOT, although the 2 Democrats seem to be at odds with each other in the city's quest to privatize MDW.
Rockwell Collins has said goodbye to its well-traveled North American Rockwell Sabre 50 avionics test bed, an airplane the company has owned since 1976. The aircraft has been used over the decades for testing a variety of groundbreaking avionics developments, including early satellite communications, radio altimeters, the first Mode-S transponder and the company's Pro Line 4 avionics systems, as well as various FMS, radar, autopilot and approach system hardware. The one-of-a-kind aircraft was first purchased in 1964 by a company which used it for 20 years and put more than 1000 hrs on it before Collins acquired it. The tail number N50CR stood for the Sabre's model number followed by CR, which stood for "Collins Radio" and "Cedar Rapids"—the Iowa home of the company now known as Rockwell Collins. The test airplane was a body double for the Beech Starship 2000 during development of that innovative airplane's equally advanced avionics system. In a fitting tribute to the unique bird, N50CR is headed for Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville OR where it will rest alongside another one-of-a-kind aircraft, the Hughes H4 Hercules, popularly known as the "Spruce Goose."
Pentastar Aviation's "Strikes for Sky Hope" fundraiser, held at the NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers conference in San Antonio TX in conjunction with Sky Hope Network, raised $800. Team Pentastar, decked in bright teal bowling shirts, invited booth visitors to bowl a frame using a Wii in order to raise money and awareness for Sky Hope. This is the company's 3rd year supporting Sky Hope Network during S&D.
Gulfstream's G280 has set 15 new city-pair speed records as part of a reliability demonstration program. The 250-hr internal testing program was implemented by Gulfstream as a way to enhance fleet reliability, enrich pilot training and improve customer readiness. The program mimics real-world customer operations by incorporating pilot check rides, maintenance on APUs, engine run qualifications, technical operations, publications validations and basic servicing and handling at typical FBOs, thereby— according to Gulfstream—ensuring that "customers have the most reliable aircraft." Of the 15 city pair-records made, the most notable were a flight from ASE (Aspen CO) to FLL (Intl, Fort Lauderdale FL) and another from HNL (Honolulu, Oahu HI) to SAV (Savannah GA).
Conklin & de Decker has released a new version of its life cycle cost (LCC) aircraft budgeting and financial analysis tool. LCC software is one of many products developed by Conklin & de Decker and contains cost information on all aspects of owning and operating aircraft. LCC provides extensive ownership and operating cost data for more than 400 jets, turboprops, helicopters and piston aircraft. It is suitable for owners, operators, flight department managers and consultants.
The Aviation Alliance, under the direction of industry veteran Jack Pelton, has announced a revitalization program for the legacy Cessna 421. The Excalibur 421 program equips the aircraft with new Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A engines, a custom Garmin avionics suite and a new-generation interior. The Excalibur 421 will also be equipped with new tires, brakes, deicing, hydraulics and electrical system. Patty Wagstaff has joined the Excalibur 421 leadership team as its demonstration pilot and marketing consultant. The company made the announcement in February, saying Wagstaff will make several planned attempts at world record flights and will be responsible for overseeing the transition of training for clients.