Feeling a bit chilly these days? Don’t forget to sign up for the spectacular Aviation Issues Conference starting Sunday in Hawaii. It may not be at our favorite, the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, but it’s at the equally luxurious Fairmont Orchid, on the dry side of the Big Island, where the temps are always around 80 and it hardly ever rains.
Granted, the five-day conference, sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives, the major airlines, the aerospace industry, lobbyists and others, has lost a bit of luster.
There was a time when eight or more lawmakers, dozens of Senate and House aides and a contingent of federal officials attended.
But then came Le Scandale d’Abramoff, which cast a pall on luxury golfing trips and dropped lawmaker attendance down to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who, after all, lives there, and perhaps one or two others. Unclear if any other members are going this year.
Hard economic times probably has given some private-sector folks pause as trade associations and others are watching their expenses.
More recently, President Obama’s executive order to cut expenses, including travel, appears to have reduced participation from the executive branch as well. Administration officials — especially those with transportation portfolios — still go, but we’re told in reduced numbers. The Federal Aviation Administration is sending four hardy souls (same as last year) the Transportation Security Administration is sending two and no one’s going from the National Transportation Safety Board.
We tried to see if any federal officials were leading discussion panels but the AAAE press office didn’t respond to an inquiry and the Web site’s conference “Agenda” section most curiously says only: “The conference program will be distributed onsite at the conference.” Even hard-working lobbyists may have trouble convincing their firms to send them.
But you must do your utmost. Remember, this is a Loop Five-Star event, where all “working” sessions end before lunch so there’s time to change for an afternoon of spectacular golf. There’s also great whale-watching or snorkeling with the sea turtles, not to mention the Volcanoes National Park.
Come on, people. We’re talking stunning Hawaii here.