AOPA Paints Rosy Picture

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GA Numbers Are Up...

Well, if the assembled nabobs of the aviation industry were bracing for yet another doom-and-gloom speech, they must have been positively blinded by AOPA President Phil Boyer's rose-colored glasses Wednesday. Boyer told the Aero Club of Washington that general aviation is bucking the trends and showing healthy growth in most areas. He said most of the key indicators, including aircraft sales (piston singles), student pilot enrollment and aviation equipment sales are up, perhaps not as much as everyone would like, but up nonetheless. He also said AOPA's membership is up (396,754) and those members are bullish on aviation, as evidenced by a poll that asked them whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future. "Even in these times of uncertainty and heightened security restrictions, a full two-thirds of our members said they're optimistic," he said. Boyer told the Aero Club that public perception of the largely illusory security threat posed by GA is the sector's biggest challenge. He said it's important for GA to respond positively to those concerns to prove that it can police itself on security matters.

...But Companies Struggle...

While Boyer was accentuating the positive, however, some Raytheon employees were facing some grim realities. Raytheon Aircraft Services announced it will sell its Rockford, Ill., fixed-base operation to Emery Air Inc. Emery is Raytheon's neighbor at the Greater Rockford Airport. Emery says it will retain most of the 43 Raytheon employees and will remain an Authorized Service Center for several Raytheon aircraft, including the King Air, Baron, Bonanza and Hawker 400XP. Raytheon is also examining the possibility of outsourcing plastics at its plant in Salina, Kan. The Salina plant employs about 350 people and 60 to 70 people work in the plastics area. The company is also reviewing whether to send production of wire harnesses from its Wichita plant to a company in Mexico. It's all part of a plan to concentrate on final assembly of the aircraft and subcontract smaller work. The transition should be complete by 2006.

...And Laid-Off Workers Get Aid

Meanwhile, help is on the way for Kansas aviation workers who have already been laid off. As expected, the Kansas state legislature has ruled that all Boeing, Cessna, Raytheon and Bombardier workers laid off as the result of the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic downturn afterward are eligible for extended unemployment benefits. The workers will get an extra 13 weeks of benefits after regular unemployment insurance runs out, part of a congressional spending package passed in mid-April. The task now is getting the extra assistance into the hands of those really needing it. The Wichita Eagle reported that infighting within the federal Department of Labor caused delays. According to the Eagle, some in the agency disputed whether the GA layoffs qualified for the aid, which was primarily intended for the airlines. State officials now claim the debate has ended, opening the way to get cash to the needy workers. While the bureaucrats sort out the details, some laid-off workers will see their regular benefits end before the extended package kicks in.