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You’d have to be in a coma to be unaware of the disastrous effect of the economic downturn on general aviation. Planes just aren’t selling the way they used to. CEOs are excoriated for replacing aging aircraft with newer, more efficient jets. Pratt & Whitney is cutting 1,000 jobs and hiring is frozen. Boeing laid off 27% of their Wichita, KS workforce in January, with Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna following up with 500 layoffs each, also in Wichita. Cirrus sales are down and they are cutting 100 jobs, Northstar Aerospace laid off 15% of their workforce and Eclipse has laid off 650. In Florida, Piper has laid off 300 workers. Let’s see….who am I leaving out?
No doubt about it, things are looking grim. So what about this behemouth stimulus package? Is there anything in there for aviation?
Actually, yes. Congress originally set aside $3 billion for airport improvement. The idea was to direct funds into so called “shovel ready” projects; those projects which could go to contract within 120 days of receiving FAA approvals. The final bill shapes up a little differently. $1.1 billion for airport capital investment nationwide. $200 million for the FAA facilities and equipment, including $50 million for modernizing en-route traffic centers, $80 million to replace air traffic control towers and tracons, and $20 million to install airport lighting, navigation and landing equipment. NASA gets $1.3 billion, $200 million of which is for research and testing of environmentally responsible aircraft.
Of course, out of all that stimulus money, funds going into science research, small business support, education, tax breaks and other areas will inevitably benefit aviation in one way or another. And if President Obama and the Congress are right about the stimulus, as the economy recovers, so will aviation.