Tom Haines

Business aviation finally wakes up

February 20, 2009 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Finally, aviation strikes back. Weeks after the auto executives and their PR flacks tucked tails between legs and drove to/from Washington rather than standing up and saying, “Oh, yes, business aircraft do have a place in our global companies,” and other companies canceled business jet orders by press release, aviation manufacturers are stepping up and promoting the notion that for a lot of companies appropriately sized business aircraft make a lot of sense. They improve productivity, speed commerce, and increase security.

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton kicked off the effort through ads in the Wall Street Journal that state: “Timidity didn’t get you this far. Why put it in your business plan now?” and “One thing is certain: true visionaries will continue to fly.” Pelton’s loud support for the business aviation sector caught the attention of the talk show circuit, including Rush Limbaugh, who spent a good portion of his show recently shouting about the jobs that GA creates and the benefits of business aviation. A transcript is on his Web site.

Meanwhile, Hawker Beechcraft CEO Jim Schuster also picked up the mantle in a series of ads suggesting the company’s King Air 350s are “Sensible enough to impress any Congressional Committee.” On a similar theme, another ad targeted Starbucks, the coffee giant that recently trimmed its fleet. “Dear Starbucks, You still need to fly. We can help.” The ad uses the Hawker 4000 as an example of a jet that “does most of what bigger jets do, but at half the price.” It urges the coffee company to “right-size” its flight department.

Even Cirrus Design CEO Brent Wouters hit the campaign trail, stumping on Fox Business News about the notion that private aviation is not only good jobs, but a real lifeline for small communities where airline service is disappearing and the efficiency of airline travel in general is eroding. A clip from FBN and a compelling video clip of the company’s Flying 2.0 plan is on the Cirrus Web site.

The entire business aviation community rallied on February 17 with the unveiling of an industry-wide campaign to reshape the image of business aviation through the “No Plane, No Gain” program, a tagline launched by the industry more than a decade ago. However, now the content is targeted clearly at today’s problems.

It’s not over yet, but congratulations to the industy for stepping up in support of business aviation and for reminding the public that “business aviation” runs the gamut from a single-engine pistoin airplane carrying a sole salesman or contractor intrastate to executives flying globally to close a multibillion deal.

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