As the presidential election approaches, most pilots will probably become voters as well. In addition to the other issues to consider this election, aviation oriented voters should consider the aviation issues at stake.
One obvious issue is high fuel prices. According to GlobalAir.com, the average fuel price for both 100LL and jet fuel is more than six dollars per gallon in most of the country. There are many factors in pricing fuel, but, as noted in an Examiner article from March, President Obama’s decisions regarding oil production have contributed to high fuel prices. The president rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that would have transported Canadian oil to U.S. refineries. Under his administration, the approval rate for drilling permits has fallen from 73 to 23 percent. The approval process also takes longer. This means that in the future the United States will have less oil available and prices will trend higher.
Airlines are heavily unionized and labor organizations have traditionally supported Democrats. Although the Air Line Pilot’s Association has supported several pieces of President Obama’s legislation, ALPA has not yet endorsed either candidate for president this year. Nevertheless, an ALPA White Paper, “Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Airlines and their Employees,” does call for reform of aviation tax policy to increase competitiveness. According to On The Issues, Mitt Romney’s platform calls for lowering tax rates for business and streamlining regulations.
One new regulation that President Obama has proposed is aviation user fees. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the proposal currently exempts piston engine airplanes and certain types of flight operations. Turbine aircraft would be charged $100 per flight in controlled airspace under the plan. In the October issue of “AOPA Pilot” magazine, Mitt Romney says, “Eliminating burdensome regulations and working with the aviation industry to ensure that consumers are receiving the best service possible are equally important to keeping cost down.”
President Obama has also repeatedly attacked general aviation throughout his four years in office. In 2008, Democrats took the CEOs of the Detroit automakers to task for using private jets to fly to congressional hearings. In 2011, President Obama accused Republicans of compromising “kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break” according to Examiner. The Washington Times notes that Obama attacked corporate jet owners again in the first presidential debate in Denver, saying, “If you’ve got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight.”
Finally, aviation obviously rises and falls with the general economy. When the rest of the country is doing well, people fly more, both in airliners and private planes. Under President Obama, the economy has performed poorly by most measures. Unemployment is up. Wages are down. Unfortunately, the president does not see the need to change his economic policies if he is elected for another four years. This means that the economy and aviation will continue to be stagnant and experience only slow growth at best.
Under such scenario, retirements may lead the airlines to start hiring again, but growth and expansion would be unlikely. Jobs in corporate aviation and charter will also be hard to find. As the demand for pilots slows further, so will the demand for flight instructors and aircraft.
One of the jobs that might be lost in second Obama term is mine. My company started furloughing earlier this year after recalling almost all of our furloughees from 2008. At this point, almost half of the pilots on the seniority list have been laid off or left voluntarily to retire or take other jobs. A true economic recovery is needed to generate demand for air travel. That recovery will not happen if President Obama is reelected. With the threat of the fiscal cliff hanging over businesses, it might not happen in a Romney Administration either.
President Obama is on the wrong side of a host of issues that affect aviation. The best chance for an economic recovery and growth in the aviation industry is for Americans and pilots to elect Mitt Romney.