US Chamber chief wants more federal support for aviation

Washington DC
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The US federal government should do more to help airlines fund the infrastructure and technology required to support the industry and ensure its continued contribution to the nation's economy, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce said today in Washington DC.

"Much like the US economy, US airlines are climbing out of a deep hole and have a long way to go to be financially strong," said Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue at the lobbying group's Tenth Annual Aviation Summit. "We must ensure federal policies recognize the link between our nation's aviation network, and jobs, economic development, global competitiveness, quality of life and national security.

Donohue points out that commercial aviation accounts for $1.3 trillion in economic activity, or 5.6% of the US economy, and supports 12 million jobs. In order to support further growth the industry will need an increase in funding to modernize the existing air traffic control system, and adequately fund efforts to maintain and expand airports.

"There are many challenges ahead," Donohue told attendees. "Perhaps the biggest one is this: how are we going to deal with an expected 36% increase in fliers by 2015 and huge increases in cargo?"

He took a swipe at the escalating costs of fuel, noting a 20% increase in the first two months of this year and says that when it comes to energy, "we are shooting ourselves in the foot."

Vast reserves of oil, oil shale and natural gas exist on federal land and off shore of both coasts, yet the US does not tap into these resources, he says. "Meanwhile, we are sending hundreds of billions of dollars per year overseas to buy other people's energy - and a lot of it from dangerous, unstable places. Does that make any sense to you?"

Donohue also criticized an effort by the National Labor Relations Board to stymie Boeing's effort to build a new facility in South Carolina, a right-to work state where unions don't hold political sway. He said the US Chamber would do "everything in its power" to prevent the NLRB from interfering with Boeing.

"We are on a slippery slope when the government attempts to interfere in the legal legitimate and reasonable decision so it can reward politically favored groups. We won't stand for it," said Donohue.