Obama Administration Opposes New Jet For Bailed-Out Bank, NBAA Responds

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Click for video of the Falcon 7X interior

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday at a press briefing that President Barack Obama "doesn't believe" using private jets "is the best use of money"-- at least not if that money is from a federally financed bailout package. In response to a question about Citigroup spending $50 million for a Dassault Falcon 7X business jet, which was reported Monday in the New York Post, Gibbs said, "The president believes that great care should be used anytime the taxpayers' money is being used ... that money should be used to lend to consumers to get the economy moving again, to free up capital and credit, and help small businesses create jobs." Citigroup has received $45 billion from the TARP, or Troubled Asset Relief Program. According to Bloomberg News, an official from the Treasury Department called Citigroup this week to "express concern" about the company's planned purchase of the jet. A bank spokesperson told Bloomberg that their intent was to sell off older aircraft and buy new, more efficient ones and no TARP funds would be used for the purchase. The plan, however, drew an outcry. Sen. Carl Levin, of Michigan, where the auto industry has taken harsh criticism for use of corporate jets, said that Citigroup shouldn't be flying either. "To permit Citigroup to purchase a plush plane -- foreign-built no less -- while domestic auto companies are being required to sell off their jets is a ridiculous double standard," he said in a statement on his Web site. "The notion of Citigroup spending $50 million on a new corporate jet, even as it is depending on billions of taxpayer dollars to survive, does not fly." Citigroup later released a statement saying that the company has "no intent to take delivery of any new aircraft."

NBAA responded on Wednesday with a letter to President Barack Obama. "While we support the need for wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars, we are deeply concerned about a pattern that seems to be emerging in which policymakers are discouraging and disparaging the use of general aviation for business purposes," wrote NBAA President Ed Bolen. "This has to stop -- policymakers need to understand that general aviation is about jobs.... Instead of discouraging companies from accepting and using business airplanes or any other strategic business asset, policymakers should be looking for ways to increase general aviation manufacturing jobs, promote economic development in communities without commercial airline service, and facilitate productivity and efficiency at companies trying to do more with less." [more] For the full text of Bolen's letter, click here.

The three-engine 7X was certified in April 2007, and according to Dassault, offers up to 40 percent better fuel efficiency than other aircraft in its class. The airplane has a range of almost 6,000 nm and can carry up to 12 passengers.