As summer made its way into the Northern Hemisphere, business aviation once again found itself under an “eclipse” of darkness. This time it was the President and the Wall Street Journal.
First up was the Wall Street Journal with a front-page article June 16 describing the personal (ab)use of business aircraft with reports of frequent travels by some corporate jets to resort destinations. While the report's data is not in question (full disclosure, Conklin & de Decker supplied WSJ with accurate hourly costs for the aircraft models), many felt that the article was sensationalized. While the WSJ did state “Corporate jets are vital business tools...” their analysis of the flights were supporting that personal use of business aircraft is far underreported.
WSJ followed that up with a second article on June 20th about the former IBM chief, Louis Gerstner, and the number of trips IBM aircraft currently make to destinations where Mr. Gerstner has vacation homes.
Then on June 29, the President on June 29 was talking on the economy and the deficit when he stated, “I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys.” One sentence, but it was enough.
Aviation groups like NBAA, NATA, AOPA and others were quick to respond. Their responses tried to focus in of the contributions that business and general aviation make to the US economy and that most “fat cats” are really medium sized business flying in smaller aircraft trying to do everything they can to survive in todays markets.
While some responses seemed a bit quick to take offense, they did a good job of trying to show the value of business aviation to the US economy.
What is mostly absent is a coordinated response. No, not from those of us whose livelihoods depend on aviation, but from those who directly use and benefit from these aircraft. What I would like to see is business CEOs and owners get together with an open letter sent to the major news outlets describing the importance of aircraft in their ability to conduct business. It should come from small to medium business that uses an aircraft. Not the top mega-corporations (see “fat cat” above), but those companies flying aircraft representing the other 85% of business aviation. I’m talking of companies with annual sales in the tens of millions or hundreds of millions, not large, global firms with billions in sales.
I think a response from those companies would be far more compelling. People might see them are more “regular folks” versus the titans we regularly see in the business news headlines. Sorry, Donald Trump, business aviation won’t benefit from your defense.
But who can talk to these folks and ask them to respond? How about their trusted pilots and mechanics! Let me know how I can help.