Last autumn the political class chose to demagogue the unfortunate decision of senior auto executives to travel to DC in corporate jets to discuss federally-funded rescue efforts for GM and Chrysler. One of the second order effects of all that podium thumping was a slackening of orders in business jets, which in turn caused the lay-offs of thousand of air industry workers, including over half the production line employees at Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft Company. Now, Congress is trying to make it right:
Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress. The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service. But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.
Earmarks: You’ve got to love ‘em. Well, if you’re a congressman you do. In other, probably unrelated news, a private citizen in Oz is doing some backyard innovation in the UAV domain:
A light aircraft has taken off at Coober Pedy in outback South Australia without the pilot. The man was unable to start the Cessna from the cockpit, so got out to spin the propeller by hand. When the plane started it became airborne without him and travelled about 300 metres before it crashed in a ditch and rolled over.
Yes, there are some kinks to work out.