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Is Babbitt Good For GA?

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I guess the biggest question I have about the nomination of Randy Babbitt as FAA administrator is what took so long. What I hope is that given the enormity of the other issues facing President Barack Obama's administration, that the comparatively trivial matters of airspace modernization and FAA funding simply took a back seat. If that's the case, Babbitt seems like as good a choice as any and will put his own spin on the bureaucratic inertia that seems to run everything anyway.

What I'm afraid of is that the delay in the nomination was the result of a determined process by Obama to get exactly what he wants out of the FAA. And since that's the way the new president seems to have tackled every other department, I suspect this to be the case.

Why is that so ominous?

Well, Obama has been demonstrably and unapologetically disdainful of general aviation in the early days of his presidency and he may have skipped over the former front runners for the job because their goals didn't match his.

I think Obama has embarked on a softening up campaign to get the country ready for some legislation that will raise a huge ruckus among the GA community. Those voices need to be muted by the overwhelming majority of constituents who are being deliberately misled about the role and function of GA.

What else could be behind Obama's consistent reliance on the use of business aircraft as an example of CEO abuse of privilege, power and, in some cases, taxpayer money. Now, Obama knows very well how important and effective business aviation is as a competitive and productivity tool but he'll only admit that (through a spokesman) when pressed hard and those comments are rarely heard. It's his flippant and offhand remarks about business travel that get the headlines and resonate in the populist message he's perfected.

If bizjet bashing continues, the recession-weary mainstream electorate will be all too willing to dismiss any kind of dissent from the aviation community as whining by the rich and the congressmen and senators who represent them will have to agree.

Is Babbitt the instrument of this plan or am I just paranoid?

I'm betting on the former but I'd be happy with the latter.

Comments (19)

I think you are over-reacting to early administration comments primarily channeling public anger at our economic collapse at profligate corporate management generally, of which extravagent bizjet use is symbolic,while pursuing an overriding policy of stimulating the economy despite that anger. Accordingly, GA's task is to demonstrate its significant economic impact on the economy to win administration support.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | March 30, 2009 3:17 AM    Report this comment

So, just how much "extravagent bizjet use" is there? Is this documented by someone someplace? GA can (and has) demonstrated it's economic impact but the problem is it's not news worthy. It doesn't make a good sound bite. The public doesn't have a clue how business works and even less how congress works. The whining will be from the unknowing public and congress, looking for a scapegoat, will whine along with them.

Posted by: William McAllister | March 30, 2009 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Get ready for user fees boys and girls. This guy is a airline person all the way and us flbs are just in the way of those noble airliners. Let's face it flying is kind of glamorous and unless you are a Hollywood type being glamorous is something to be reviled in this poisonous populist times. Tearing things apart to effect change is a necessary evil. Let's see, where did I read that before?

Posted by: Stuart Baxter | March 30, 2009 8:51 AM    Report this comment

I've seen numerous studies of the significant economic contribution GA makes to the economy. AOPA has been very active in publicizing it. In addition to the manufacturing and service jobs, there's always construction and maintenance. The secondary impact of GA users spending in communities is often as much as 10 times the direct expenditures. It also benefits the nation in numerous other ways. Again see AOPA's effort to publicize that. A good place to start is http://www.aopa.org/info/what_ga.pdf If Babbitt is "an airline guy" let's get started on letting him know how many of us there are out here. The airlines may be big, but their business and service models are poor. New technologies in VLJ airframes, avionics and 5000 GA airports versus 50+ commercial airports is compelling.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | March 30, 2009 9:06 AM    Report this comment

Personally I think you're being paranoid about Obama. Bizjet as an example of executive excess is simply obvious and makes good stump speech fodder.

That said, I'm concerned about Babbit and his obvious ties to airlines simply because of the biases that brings.

Posted by: Jon Carlson | March 30, 2009 10:45 AM    Report this comment

I believe Babbitt comes from the pilots' union, not airline side of the table and that is part of the reason he was nominated, to smooth long running labor relations issues in the industry. NextGen implementation will be another aspect of his job. Funding for that and FAA generally is a subordinate principle to that and the issue for GA. User fees are inimical to air safety, concept of national airspace use and control, predictable income stream and economic revitalization. I don't think Babbitt was nominated for his position on user fees. GA must continue to press that with any new FAA administrator. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | March 30, 2009 12:02 PM    Report this comment

The complaints about Babbitt's role in the demise of Eastern Airlines needs to be tempered with the fact that the primary culprit was Frank Lorenzo. I don't know of too many airline pilots that like the guy, but in his efforts to "cash out" and make a bundle for himself, he put a lot of people out of work.

Posted by: Richard Brown | March 30, 2009 11:19 PM    Report this comment

Babbit is bad for GA because he's an airline guy. Airlines and Obama want user fees. The airlines will pass on any fees to their passengers, but how do GA pilots pass them on?

Posted by: Anne Wright | April 1, 2009 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Russ, you are pretty much right on. Having been around the aviation industry for a while, I can tell you that anything coming out of ALPA will be strictly pro-union and pro-anything airline that involves a union. This would include ATC, Maintenanced, Pilots, baggage handlers, etc. ALPA serves itself and I'm sure the new administrator will do the same. The fact that he is a pilot does not make him pro-aviation, it merely means he has or had a license. Look for some bad things down the road due to his placement in this position.

Posted by: Rich Davidson | April 1, 2009 8:56 AM    Report this comment

Count me among the naysayers. Babbit is a union, big airline guy and that means that GA is looked down upon as a bother. We will see user fees and I really fear much greater intrusions into our freedoms by TSA know nothings. Lets face it, we are looked on by this administration as elite rich guys who can be pushed around.

Posted by: Kenneth Nolde | April 1, 2009 11:23 AM    Report this comment

Instead of jumping to conclusions about the administration's, and a prior union leader's, bias in favor of big airlines and declaring defeat, consider that the administration has proved itself to not be a kneejerk big and incompetently managed business supporter; a former union leader professionally opposed, rather than supported, those airlines; and join AOPA's effort to educate them as to the inefficiency, public safety hazard and detriment to the economy that user fees on GA would generate.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | April 1, 2009 11:57 AM    Report this comment

Airline pilots who don't fly GA aircraft have little appreciation for our arena. Unless Randy Babbitt is also a GA pilot his orientation will be, with no disrespect intended, "airline." He is not listed by the FAA as an aircraft owner. User fees discourage the use of airspace for non-revenue flying and that makes more room for airliners whose purpose is revenue. It will take a lot of money and political pressure to change the trend. One way or another, we users will pay.

Posted by: Ken Sandine | April 1, 2009 2:11 PM    Report this comment

Who is Elliot Meisel? Is he a spokesman for the Obama administration? An FAA official? ALPA? I'm just curious why he is so supportive of a man who, given his background and Obama's desire for user fees, has been appointed head of the FAA.

Posted by: Anne Wright | April 1, 2009 4:31 PM    Report this comment

I am a GA pilot and aircraft owner. I am not a spokesman for anyone and vigorously oppose user fees. I merely point out that it behooves you to inform yourself before reacting, and then taking constructive action to influence policy rather than criticizing people about which you know nothing. What is your source for the contention that the Obama administration supports user fees? Even if it does (in the first month of a new administration), why do you assume that position will not be influenced by Congress, AOPA, EAA, local airports and others? What have you heard about Mr. Babbitt's attitude toward user fees rather than just jumping to conclusions? Prejudging people that way is not constructive.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | April 1, 2009 4:46 PM    Report this comment

At least six respondents to this blog have names on the FAA registry for aircraft ownership. Many pilots are not owners (they may be the smart ones) but all of us are a part of a group that is living out a “dream” to fly. Perpetuating that "dream" is a part of what AOPA, EAA, etc., do and that would be affected by “user fees.” While I would “lean” toward the opinion that Randy Babbitt will not “lean” toward cutting GA much slack, I think Elliot Meisel is correct in saying that Congress, AOPA, EAA, and others who would be affected can influence the outcome. As Mr. Meisel has done, I will confess my status as GA pilot, aircraft owner (N339Z), ex-USAF, retired captain (major airline), and ex-ALPA (during the Babbitt administration). "Houston, we have a problem" (Apollo 13). They did return!

Posted by: Ken Sandine | April 1, 2009 5:38 PM    Report this comment

To be truthful, I can't cite the source, but this issue has been discussed in other forums and it seems to be the concensus that the Obama administration is seriously considering user fees for GA. Does anyone know for a fact what the current administration favors? GA has been taking a beating from the government since 9/11/01, and because we have been a target for increasing restrictions for so long I may be a bit paranoid. I am ASEL & ASES, own a homebuilt Supercub, CAP, FAASTeam, SPA, AOPA, EAA, 99s, and WAI, and I voted for Obama. I certainly hope that Congress will defeat any attempt at user fees.

Posted by: Anne Wright | April 1, 2009 7:21 PM    Report this comment

The administration proposal is for a user fee. But they probably haven't read that either.

Posted by: Stuart Baxter | April 1, 2009 8:17 PM    Report this comment

User fees have been a political football on and off the table at various times. I believe they are on the table right now but the administration has an open mind about them. Obama just signed a bill extending FAA funding authorization for several months deferring the hard choice. That provides time for us to stop lamenting who the FAA adiministrator is and mustering 500,000 pilots, 5,000 GA airports and communities, FBO's and all the sales, service and maintenance personnel directly involved in GA and indirectly affected by it. Obama respects the power of the internet. We have the political, economic and safety arguments and time to promote them. GA serves 100 times as many airports as airlines, it is indispensible to law enforcement, medical rescue, civil evacuation, border patrol,firefighting, agriculture, freight, business travel. It is the future of passenger aviation in the US when the economy recovers and the air taxi model begins to develop and thrive. The national airspace is a national resource like the interstate highway system and funding it by user fees would be like introducing tolls to those highways. User fees will also discourage use of ATC and other pay per use services and will compromise safety. It is rediculous to be spending billions on NestGen technology and then not making it as widely available as possible. I suggest we use this blog to develop and promote those arguments and then assess their effect on Mr. Babbitt.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | April 1, 2009 10:19 PM    Report this comment

I think that President Obama needs to recall that while flying around the country campaigning for the Presidency, he was a major participant and beneficiary of that segment of the industry we call General Aviation.

Posted by: Unknown | April 8, 2009 4:56 PM    Report this comment

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