Aviation

No sign of Obama visit to state

President Obama visited automotive factories in Michigan last week and one in Illinois on Thursday, but there's no sign he'll come to Kansas to see Wichita's aviation industry firsthand.

For more than a year, aircraft manufacturers, trade groups and the head of the Machinists union have extended the invitation, so the president can see the importance of the industry.

"They've given us no response," said Machinists union international president Tom Buffenbarger. "I don't think the president understands just how bad things are out there (in Wichita) or anyplace else in America."

Obama visited the car plants to praise the revitalization of the industry and defend his decision to rescue the automakers with an $86 billion government bailout, saying it saved a million jobs.

Wichita has lost thousands of aviation jobs in the downturn as buyers delayed or canceled orders.

The aviation industry also took a hit after Congress took Detroit automakers to task for flying business jets to Washington to ask for bailout money.

A visit to Wichita would help the president understand what general aviation means for jobs, balance of trade, commerce and contributions to society through humanitarian efforts, said Cessna spokesman Bob Stangarone.

"We would like to help him understand the value of business in general aviation," Stangarone said.

With Kansas a Republican state, some say there is no political value for the Democratic president to visit.

But, Buffenbarger said, "it would be one of the smartest things he could do."

A Brookings Institute study last week found that Wichita — with its aviation cluster — led the nation in a list of cities with the fastest export growth. Wichita was also the leading city in exports that drive U.S. Gross Metropolitan Product.

Obama's export initiative calls for doubling exports in the next five years.

Given that and Wichita's central role in general aviation exports, a visit would be a "win-win," said General Aviation Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Katie Pribyl.

"As one of the few remaining industries that contributes positively to the U.S. balance of trade, it is essential that GA manufacturing is fostered in order to help the administration meet its export goals and bring back good jobs," Pribyl said.

  Comments