Business aviation leaders were frustrated that they had to continue to battle to improve the industry´s image after the White House resurrected a ban on owning or leasing business jets for automakers that accept federal financial aid (BA, Dec. 22/281). The Bush Administration adopted wholesale many of the restrictions included in the auto industry bailout bill as part of its decision to tap into the Troubled Asset Relief Program to assist the auto industry.
The White House automaker language requires that any "Loan party or any subsidiary" demonstrate that it is taking steps to divest its aircraft or interest in an aircraft. "Further no Loan Party shall acquire or lease any such aircraft or interest in such aircraft," the language adds. Like the language in the auto bailout bill, the White House language appeared opened-ended, making the ban permanent.
"We´re disappointed that business aviation continues to be characterized as something other than a tool," said National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen. While the provision is specific to a unique situation involving the auto industry, Bolen noted, "Our concern is it will be misconstrued." He added that he was reaching out to the White House to make sure that the provision is "not intended to misrepresent the value of business aviation to our country."
Bolen also has been working with other industry groups to tackle the public relations nightmare that began after an ABC News broadcast showed the nation´s chief automobile executives stepping off their corporate business jets and heading to Capitol Hill seeking billions of dollars of financial assistance. The CEOs were subsequently chastised for traveling via business jet to appeal for federal funds.
"Having the news media telling the rest of the country how to run a business and what tools to use is ridiculous," said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Bunce noted that the coverage has escalated a "class warfare" situation and said, "Where does it stop? If I can´t use a jet as a business tool, should people be able to fly business or first class? You can´t draw the line like that, and it´s hypocritical for the press to do this."
National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne agreed, calling the language an "outrage. If you had written all of this out as a Hollywood script six months ago, I wouldn´t have believed it." Coyne faulted the White House for not doing due diligence before adopting the auto bailout language, saying it was simplistic and unjustified "to single out a particular transportation product and declare that it is a pariah."
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