Jet convention hears from national leaders

October 22, 2013

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and former Secretary of the Treasury John Snow addressed attendees at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas Oct. 22, warning attendees to keep their guard up during a time when a desperate government is looking for budget cuts.

Graves, co-chairman of the 229-member General Aviation Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, urged the audience to keep their congressmen on "speed dial" and ask them if they are members of the caucus. There is a second defense group of congressmen in the House called the Pilots' Caucus that includes 17 members. Graves, a passionate aviation enthusiast, can be found at his home airport—Gould Peterson Municipal Airport in Tarkio, Mo., pumping gas on weekends when he is there. He joked that if he plays his cards right, he could be promoted to chief lineman.

During the opening session of the convention actor Harrison Ford, who regularly flies search-and-rescue missions, was honored with the NBAA Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership. Also speaking to the group was John Pistole, a former deputy director of the FBI who is now administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. He urged the audience to join a frequent flyer program called the TSA Precheck now available at 100 airports. It costs $85 for five years and will be available online in 60 days. Many in his audience, however, use business aviation for transportation more often than the airlines.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow told the group that user fees were first introduced in 1973. He urged attendees to be on guard as the government struggles to deal with the budget mess.

"In 10 to 15 years," he said, "entitlements [Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and others] will absorb all current revenues." He suggested that sequestration is so feared by all political foes that it will force a "mini-deal" to keep the government going in early 2014. Part of that solution may be concessions on all sides, he said, that includes President Barrack Obama "stepping back some" from his health care program for those lacking health insurance. He said a lasting solution may be reached along the lines of a famous quote by Winston Churchill: “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”