Government shut down affecting aviation

PLYMOUTH - As federal lawmakers continue to wrangle over the budget, small business around the country continues to suffer.

Tom Hendricks, President and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association was in Plymouth to speak to the Aviation Association of Indiana at their annual meeting at Swan Lake Resort. While his talk included other issues his main topic was the inability of the government to resolve the budget and the sequester that has already begun to hurt the aviation industry.

"We are very concerned about the (Federal Aviation Administration) FAA's ability to properly oversee the transportation system," said Hendricks. "Luckily they called back 800 aviation inspectors the day before last. We are pleased with that. We are still short a couple thousand."

The lack of inspectors poses a wide range of problems at many levels of the industry.

"It's not only overseeing operations it's overseeing new aircraft, registering new aircraft that are now sitting on ramps unable to move because they don't have the proper documents to sell aircraft, buy aircraft, and transfer aircraft," he said. "We sent a letter to (Department of Transportation) DOT Secretary Fox yesterday saying that we are hurting businesses dramatically."

"We've got small operators out there that have instructors whose certifications have expired. We have pilots that are relying on those instructors to re-certify them sitting on the ground unable to operate aircraft and unable to generate revenue. We have owners of those aircraft that have this huge asset sitting there that are unable to see a return."

"We strongly urge both the administration and Congress to find a resolution to this as quickly as possible to get the aviation system back up to full speed."

While there are no short term safety risks involved in the shut down, Hendricks says that as time goes on that could change also.

"We are incurring more risk," he said. "The aviation industry is very good at managing risk so that we can remain safe. As time goes on and more and more aircraft are parked and qualifications expire we are going to incur more and more risk. The longer we wait the bigger a challenge that's going to be."

In the meantime business owners continue to struggle with assets that cannot produce revenue for investors or tax dollars for the government.

"Personally I know that there is an airbus in France that's been purchased by a customer that is waiting to use it but it can't leave France because it can't get U.S. registration," said Hendricks. "There is a corporate jet in Brazil in the same situation. Businesses are relying on these huge assets they are investing in to go up there and create jobs and commerce that also generates taxes and it's all stopped."

Obviously the longer the shut down continues, the greater the problem - a fact that Hendricks hopes to make clear to the administration and Congress.

"This is the reality of what this is doing to small businesses and we want to be sure that people in Congress and the administration understand this is a huge negative impact for small businesses that are already operating on razor thin margins."