In March, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Cessna Aircraft and praised Wichita’s general aviation industry.
LaHood said he would return to Washington and encourage President Obama to come for a visit.
In speeches two weeks later, Obama criticized owners of business jets, calling them "fat cats," U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo said Wednesday at a news conference at the Kansas Aviation Museum.
The remarks added “weight on this industry it didn’t need,” Pompeo said. “We’ve had a president who’s made it too politically difficult to buy a general aviation aircraft.”
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Pompeo said that’s why he was unveiling a campaign called "America Flies." He said it’s an effort to get the word out about the importance of general aviation to Wichita and the United States.
"The last great manufacturing jewel left in America is the aviation industry," Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he is using some of his campaign money to set up an America Flies website, www.americaflies.us.
It will include a petition asking Obama to support the industry. It’s also a place people will be able to share their stories of why the industry is important, he said.
“We want to have a ready group of people across the country who can explain to their representatives what this industry needs,” Pompeo said.
The general aviation industry contributes $150 billion to the U.S. economy a year and means 1.3 million jobs and $53 billion in payroll, said Dave Franson, executive director of the Wichita Aero Club. He said Wichita has lost 13,000 aviation jobs in recent years, and that must be turned around.
Two-thirds of flights made in corporate jets are for business, he said, and 70 percent of the passengers are not executives. They’re medical personnel, technicians and those who work for small manufacturers, construction companies and telecommunications firms.
Arthur Alvis is founder of Commtech, a Wichita manufacturer of commercial and industrial communications adapters. He said he uses the Cessna Citation Mustang he bought a year ago to visit customers.
“Here to Dallas is a 45-minute flight rather than a five-hour drive,” Alvis said.
Don McGinty, with McGinty Machine, makes parts for general aviation aircraft. That work creates jobs at his business and with other suppliers.
“We just need people to support general aviation,” McGinty said.
America Flies is a bipartisan effort, Pompeo said.
"It’s not about liberal thought versus conservative thought," he said. "This is about jobs. Good-paying jobs for the best aviation workforce in the world right here in Kansas."