LaHood’s Speech: How I’d Have Written It


There was a time in my life as a journalist that the shallow platitudes that the political class spouts almost as an autonomic function went in one ear, through the emptiness in between, and out the other. Now, they tend to bounce around, get hung up and just piss me off.Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s comments to the crowd in Wichita this week struck me as off-scale high on the Words Without Meaning meter. Specifically, he said, “I am proud to stand with you, to work with you and to fight with you to make sure that general aviation…continues to flourish. You will be one of the leaders in helping the global economy pick up.” Two weeks after Cirrus got snatched up by the Chinese, LaHood said the administration was working hard to meet its goal of doubling exports in five years. I think he was probably thinking of exporting products, not companies, but these days, you can never tell.It’s an insult to the audience to say that general aviation is going to lead anything. The industry is on its butt and holding on with tattered fingernails. If it’s ever to thrive again, it will follow a vigorous recovery in the global economy, not the other way around. In any case, in the imaginary world with the pink sky and rivers of milk and honey where I sometimes withdraw, here’s how I’d rewrite LaHood’s speech:

I am proud to stand with you, to work with you and to fight with you to make sure that general aviation continues to flourish. And those are not just empty words. Here are the specifics.You have told me that excessive regulation and certification costs are killing your competitiveness. I hear you. Accordingly, the President has ordered a top down and bottom up review of FAA certification procedures to be done not by the government, but an industry task force. It has 90 days to make its recommendations and the President expects to hear from you that there has been a meaningful reduction in regulatory workload. If there is not, my resignation will be on his desk.As part of that process, I have established a new independent DOT Ombudsmen Office with authority to investigate, address and resolve any and all complaints against the FAA at any level. This office answers not to me, but to the Government Accountability Office. If you’d like to think of it as our version of internal affairs, be my guest.As an industry, you have demonstrated that airplanes are a vital part of our transportation infrastructure and infrastructure means jobs. Therefore, the President has proposed that the bonus depreciation program be extended and expanded for aircraft and upgrades of all kinds. Further, we will be announcing new tax incentives for research and development work related to advanced air transportation and further incentives for companies to keep manufacturing in the U.S. A strong economy depends on both fair taxation and the ability to move people and goods quickly. We aim to provide both.Further, during the dark days of 2009, the President reacted unfavorably to auto executives and bankers using business jets as pleasure barges. My friends, we all know there are abuses, but we also know that a properly used business aircraft is a time machine, a tool to grow a business and gain a competitive foothold that’s just not possible in any other way. At the DOT, we intend to promote that idea by streamlining regulations related to business aircraft usage and, especially, removing the specter or expensive, overbearing airport security. I am urging the President to come to Wichita himself to say as much. Related to business travel, the Department of Homeland Security has been ordered to shift its security emphasis from scans and pat downs to intelligence and profiling, something it should have been doing from the beginning.Last, I know that dollar wise, the production of piston aircraft is a small piece of the general aviation pie, but it’s a vital one because it encourages new pilot starts. And I am standing in a town whose very existence depends on this industry. I am also informed that EPA regulations threaten the fuel supplies these airplanes rely on. I can assure you the FAA is sensitive to this is moving forward to a solution. I promise you that I will personally breath down their collective necks so that you will see conspicuous progress within 60 days.

That oughta do it, I think. We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.