Franklin Mayor responds to Obama’s comments

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011


FRANKLIN—Jim Councill was among 77 mayors from 43 states who signed a letter in response to President Barack Obama’s recent comments on general aviation, many of which seem to cast a negative light on the industry.

The letter was created by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, which among other things, is opposed to a user fee tax proposed for each take off and landing.

“I received an e-mail from the alliance opposing the fee,” said Councill. “I checked with our airport manager on our status and the economic impact the airport has on the area.”

Selena Shilad, executive director, said the President’s remarks “have really been an overall pattern. A couple of months ago, Obama referred to owners and users of general aviation as corporate jet owners, and the egregious tax holes for such use should be closed.”

“It’s a huge mischaracterization that only corporations and the wealthy can afford such airplanes,” said Shilad.

She said that only three percent are for corporate use, but 85 percent of general aviation users are small to mid-sized businesses depending on these aircraft. Disaster relief and emergencies are examples.

“The last thing they can afford is an additional tax burden,” Shilad said. “But it’s not just about the tax burden, but also administrative. Keeping track of each take off and landing is more work. Last thing they can afford is an additional tax burden. All this would hurt the industry and those businesses that use them, especially small communities.”

She is hopeful about the letter’s impact.

“It’s a significant number and a cross section. It’s powerful to have all these mayors. General aviation is an important economic engine. This could lead to greater understanding.”

Councill noted that the Virginia survey of attributed impact on the Franklin airport is $2.86 million. That includes direct and indirect influences such as its 19 jobs, fuel sales and the value of having an airport.

“I was glad to sign on to it (the letter), opposing fees,” he said. “I was also asked if I would participate in a conference.”

The discussion lasted about 45 minutes, and he spoke with the mayor of Wichita, Kan., the self-proclaimed general aviation capital of the world.

“During the conference call and subsequently to it, I learned that the bill will have little or no effect on the Franklin Airport at all,” Councill said. “In that all of the aviation in this area is in a non-controlled area and would be exempted from fees. This relates only to turbine driven aircraft and above. However, those aircraft who would be leaving here would return to a controlled apace and would be impacted, but not at the Franklin Airport.”

As to the letter’s effectiveness, Councill said, “General aviation is not just a luxury, but an important piece of corporate business, small or large. I just hope it will be considered.”