Yesterday, I had the privilege to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Annual Aviation Summit. The chamber makes an important contribution by involving the broader business community in the aviation debate and I commend them for their work.
I was on a panel discussing airport issues. The moderator was Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (and a former chief of staff to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush). My co-panelists were Lynn Hampton, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Daniel Goodwin, chairman of the DuPage County (Illinois) Airport Authority. The event was filmed by C-SPAN and a video of our panel can be viewed on the web. (My part is about 20 minutes in.)
We had a lively hour-long discussion and I pressed over and over again the point made in my Memphis speech two weeks ago: airports need to have the economic shackles removed from them, shackles imposed with the tacit complicity of the airlines and the U.S. government. Together with Lynn, we explained to this conservative business audience why blowing the lid off the PFC is a solid, conservative, prudent financial approach to building aviation infrastructure. I think I am pretty good at reading a crowd from the stage, and I could tell they were interested. Certainly the comments afterwards backed that impression up, including some comments by an airline CEO who was in the audience.
We are in a long campaign to change attitudes and educate a broader range of people on the importance of the airport economic engine; and about the fact that current government policies are killing this golden goose. The final question from Craig went something like this: If you walk out of here today and run into the President (The White House is literally across Lafayette Park from the chamber) what would you tell him. Thirty seconds or less. My answer was something like this: You want to create jobs and build infrastructure without increasing the deficit. Blow the lid off the PFC, set our airports free, and you will do all three on a scale that cannot be matched by any other decision you will make.
I must finish this post on an unrelated note.
Yesterday, the people of Maryland buried former Governor (and Baltimore mayor) William Donald Schaefer. Gov. Schaefer served at the same time as my former boss, former Virginia Gov. Jerry Baliles, and I met him several times. While Govs. Baliles and Schaefer could not have been more different in style (the first time I ever saw Gov. Schaefer he was mayor of Baltimore and dressed in a 1920’s era swim suit down by the Baltimore Inner Harbor, let’s just say that Gov. Baliles would not do that); they shared an ability to develop and articulate a vision and then assemble a first rate, loyal and dedicated staff to get it done. I loved watching the two of them work. Gov. Schaefer was a true and unique original and I am very glad I got to meet him and work up close to him. William Donald Schaefer, RIP.