Tom Haines

The consequences of the sound bite

February 4, 2009 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

The law of unintended consequences is hard at work in this troubled economy. On the morning shows today, Wells Fargo Bank was being trounced for planning to go forward with a long-booked Las Vegas gathering of its top mortgage sellers. It was to be an elaborate affair, reward for a year of hard work in tough times. When the media pointed out that the company had received some $25 billion in bail out funds, Wells Fargo began back pedaling and after a couple of attempts to vindicate itself, finally caved and canceled the event. Bummer for those planning to go.

It’s hard to defend a lavish event like that when you’re on the public dole. But remember that one function of the bail out is to stimulate the economy. So, how many Las Vegas hospitality workers will be laid off or at least have their hours cut back because Wells Fargo failed to show? Those people’s livelihoods depend on people coming to town, booking hotel rooms, dropping a wad of cash at the casino, riding that roller coaster on top of the Stratosphere, and, my favorite, visiting the Star Trek extravaganza at the Hilton.

Here’s the aviation connection you’ve been so patiently waiting for: Congress and the media have been drubbing on the business aviation industry as if it were some evil cartel that needs to be stamped out of existence. Thanks to the Big Three Automakers and Citibank’s unwillingness to even attempt to justify their use of business aircraft, we have a feeding frenzy of negative attention to anything with wings or a rotor.

Congress and the media want to overlook the fact that general aviation spawns some 1 million jobs and contributes about $150 billion a year to the US economy–and it has a positive trade balance. Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Cirrus, Mooney, Piper–they’ve all had massive layoffs, devastating families. In an aviation town such as Wichita, it’s not unusual to have both spouses and multi-generations working for aviation manufacturers. What if they all get the axe because some congressman spewed venom against business aviation, forcing companies that use everything from Bonanzas to Beechjets to duck for cover and ultimately sell their airplanes? Bill Garvey, editor in chief of Business and Commercial Aviation does a masterful job of laying it out in layman’s terms in an op-ed piece in The New York Times this week.

No one is advocating the willy-nilly use of business aircraft or any other expensive asset by any company, whether they’re getting public funds or not. But let’s not trash an entire industry that produces good-paying jobs and contributes mightily to America’s economy and industrial might just for the sake of a poorly thought-out sound bite. There are, after all, consequences to such posturing. Just ask the thousands of aviation workers now lining up at the employment office.


10 Responses to “The consequences of the sound bite”

  1. philly Says:

    Oh yeah, I’m sure that planned trip was going to make or break Vegas.


    That is a well stated position defending an important industry.
    Way too many pundits jump on a topic and speak what seems appropriate without consideration for the background and ultimate effect of their position.
    Aviation especially seems to take abuse by the media by talking points founded not on fact, but what sounds good.
    From accident reporting to business aviation use to airline events, the responses of the media are horrible, mostly due to reporters and editors that have little or no knowledge of the subject being headlined. They want to get the “breaking news” on the air, only to fail in accuracy of reporting. I shuddered with unbelief with the recent discussion of jet engine “stalls” in which it was so obvious the reporters had no idea of what was being reported was distorted error.

  3. EJ Says:

    You brought up a good point about the workers in Vegas who might have to pay because of some bad publicity. And it sounds like the Well Fargo trip was a reward for hard working employees. They might be a little less motivated now to go that extra step since they don’t get the reward.

    I think the media is looking for a new subject of their focus now that the administration has changed. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some irresponsible use of business aircraft from executives of bailed out corporations but I do agree that the media is not doing enough to report on the postives of aviation. I’m waiting anyday now for some network to report on the funding allocated to aviation in the stimulus bill and call it pork.

    By the way, the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton closed in October.

  4. Tom Haines Says:

    Thanks for the tip about the Star Trek Experience. No need for me to go to the Hilton any more. Sad to hear that!

  5. Bill Bedell Says:

    General Aviation: The new “smokers,”
    Folks, this is just the beginning.
    We will be exterminated, like bugs, for political points!

  6. Travis W. Says:

    It is really sad to see that these corporate brains with their hands out allowed themselves to be in the position that never do wells like Chris Dodd or Barney Frank can dictate what business decisions they make. Even Obama jumped on the bandwagon in getting Citi to cancel their jet that they had ordered.

    The way I see it, Frank, Dodd, and Pelosi should be the first required to ditch their jets and start working for the American people before they tell the American people how they should work!

  7. Scott Says:

    Not negating the business sense of transporting busy executives on a tight schedule, as well as their staffs and their attorneys, in one aircraft instead of purchasing dozens of commercial tickets, all so that slimy politicians can grandstand and have their face on camera once more, but… Is it possible for politicians to be even more sickening and hypocritical?

    These people who go to Washington pretending to be servants and “of the people” and then in short order become millionaires (and when’s the last time that they have flown coach on a regional themselves?!). How about rags-to-millionaire Obama…is he going to forgo his new “spiffy ride” (Airforce1) to save us taxpayers millions per year? After seeing his record-breaking (300% increase over the previous record inauguration) $150-million party to honor himself in the midst of a deep recession that supposedly keeps him awake at night, I’m not holding breath.

    Do as they say, not as they do.

  8. Randy Says:

    Aviation eBrief should have published the outcrys from the Citizens of Wichita to retract the Mayor’s invitation to Obama. After what Obama said and has caused, they don’t want him in Kansas.

  9. Dan D. Says:

    If Obama visists Wichita to tour the “Air Capital of the World”, the TFR will ground pretty much everyone. The president needs to stay in DC under the ADIZ in disguise, or change the way his SS effects everyone around him!

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