Some day historians might want to put an exact starting date on the great recession of 2009. We at U.S. 1 can help narrow the range of possibilities. We maintain that the great recession began sometime between September 10 and November 12 of 2008.

Here’s our logic. On Wednesday, September 10, we published a cover story on Blue Star Jets, a private airline company with a busy sales office on Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. The company provided jet service to people who clearly had more money than time — if you wanted to get away for a few days in the sun and not waste precious time at airport check-in counters and baggage claims, then Jet Blue was for you. The message was that, if you had to ask how much it cost (into the six-figure range), then probably you couldn’t afford it.

We printed the story, and no one uttered a peep. In mid-September, if that’s how you wanted to spend your money, that was fine.

Then came November 12, and our cover story on Kim Clearwater and her husband, Jim Weaver, who had forsaken their suburban lifestyle and taken up permanent residence in the Heldrich Hotel in downtown New Brunswick. The story drew protests from readers clearly resenting the apparently carefree lifestyle.

Something changed since September 10. And now private jets are the hot button. As Howard Moses of Blue Star Jets points out in the following open letter to the President, the negative talk begins ironically in the Oval Office, with the No. 1 passenger on the ultimate private jet, Air Force One:

#h#In Defense of Corporate Jets#/h#

An Open Letter To President Obama

At 9:31 p.m. on Tuesday, February 24, you stated to the world that there should be “no new drapes and no private jets.” And for the umpteenth time in the last month our elected officials have further decimated a necessary industry that has already seen a 50 percent reduction in year over year flight time. The economic downturn has hurt me badly, as it has hurt countless others. I got killed on our family’s investments. I lost most of our retirement funds to banks and businesses that you now give my taxpayer dollars to. I’ve seen my income drop substantially in the last six months.

But I can take it. I’m an American who came from little and has worked hard for 30 years. There is always opportunity, especially when you’re motivated. And I do support you 95 percent of the time. Here’s where I have a hard time:

I’ve been available to those in need of a private jet 24/7/365 for five years. Others have been doing it for 50 years. We are not near as wealthy as our clients you stereotype. I was on a vacation when Rita was hitting Texas. Vacation for me has meant changing my location to a different setting with my family while I still need to provide 24/7 access. I had just settled into our shore rental and my phone rang. A woman was crying on the other end of the phone and told me that her last surviving child was in harm’s way. She had already lost two kids and couldn’t bear any more. If I could move her daughter she’d give me all her worldly belongings. I finished crying with her before I rejoined my family.

Two days later I was awakened by a call from our service at 3 a.m. This has happened 300 nights per year for five years. I always answer because you never know how desperate a situation there may be. A man my age cried into the phone that his wife was in a near fatal car accident and his only chance of seeing her alive was to get there immediately. He was on a business trip and needed immediate transport. How could I help? How could I not? What happens when I’m no longer answering?

The need for private jets goes way beyond the usages you portray. Let’s look at a CEO of the most important business in the country, the U.S. Government. Let’s look at your ability to carry out your duties on commercial flights. Let’s look at the scheduling of the President’s life and the results of you missing 50 percent of your meetings because you must fear the repercussions of being seen using Air Force One. You don’t need it for a 20-minute flight. That would be abusive. But you still need the aircraft.

I am trying to survive in this business while I watch my local airport, Mercer-Trenton, lose one corporate aviation client after the other. Hangars are empty. The Fixed Base Operator, a 50-plus year national brand, has just been delisted on the stock exchange. No commercial carrier is in place. And the local flight school through our community college is about to be shuttered. Everyone fears being the CEO photographed coming off a private jet today.

I stick it out because who else will be willing to wake up at 3 a.m. when a heart becomes available and the 12-year-old awaiting transplant only has three hours to get to the hospital 400 miles away? How will he get there when all the operators and brokers of private jets are forced to close? My conscience will not allow me to sleep through that call. Does yours?

Yes Mr. President, those private jets truly represent all that is wrong with our economy. Well, maybe not all that is wrong.

Howard Moses

The writer describes himself as “the sleepless managing partner” of Blue Star Jets LLC, a broker of private jet charter at 182 Nassau Street in Princeton, and its former corporate COO.

#h#A Rebuttal#/h#

I am writing in response to Howard Moses’ letter, "An Open Letter To President Obama" in the March 4, 2009 edition of US 1. His article was a much needed reminder that all decisions, however correct, have both positive and negative consequences. His personal examples of private jets needed for transportation of time-sensitive donor organs and rescue missions are poignant and thought-provoking. Nevertheless, I would like to offer some rebuttals to his premise.

I do not believe that the majority of Americans would disagree with the urgency and heroism reflected in the extraordinary stories in Mr. Moses’ article. Rather, I believe he is front-loading his argument by utilizing exceptional, rather than common, occurrences. The reason for the outcry from the public, and the rebuke from our President, in regards to private jets is not from the use of these for organ transplants or rescue missions but as additional fringe benefits to CEO’s already exorbitant salaries.

When the automakers show up to Congress in three separate private jets, hat in hand, to beg for taxpayer dollars; the American people are rightly outraged.

When corporations take taxpayer dollars and proceed with a $400,000 spa getaway, possibly utilizing private jets, they are rightly outraged.

When CEOs who ran their companies, and the economy, into the ground receive huge bonuses and fringe benefits paid for with taxpayer dollars; while workers who show up to work on time, perform their jobs exceedingly well and follow the “rules of the road” are laid off; they are rightly outraged.

The banks, mortgage and insurance companies that President Obama rebuked are not rescuing hurricane victims or transporting donated organs. They are poorly managing, thereby hemorrhaging money from, corporations that are currently subsidized by the United States Government.

Lastly, as I have heard this attempt at similarity before; to compare the President of the United States with any CEO in the world is laughable at best, incredibly ignorant at worst.

David Graves

Hamilton, NJ

Accounting Office Manager

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