There has been a lot of talk about the best way to battle the public backlash against corporate aviation lately. Many have suggested that the media should be presented with the necessary information to defend our industry and the business tool that corporate aviation can be. Unfortunately, I have spoken with some people who attempted to do just that, but their information was not given the spotlight that all the negative stories have received. The sad truth is that I think the media benefits by stirring up public outrage and they don’t always care if it is justified or not.
Some have pointed out the hypocrisy of a Congress that demands the recipient of public funds discontinue the use of private aircraft, even though the Congressmen themselves are avid users. We’ve all heard the story of Speaker Pelosi’s upgrade from a Gulfstream to a private 757 for her travel needs when she took office. She uses it to travel back and forth between San Francisco and DC every week and would sacrifice a great deal of time and productivity if she were forced to commute via the airlines. Obviously our elected officials recognize the benefits our industry provides, but they seem to be afraid to defend it to their constituents. Many of you have probably heard about Cessna’s bold new advertising campaign. Following is an excerpt from one of them :
“Shame on those who suggest that business aviation is little more than a corporate frivolity. Focusing on facts over hyperbole, it’s glaringly apparent why you fly. Study after study shows companies operating business aircraft outperform competitors that don’t. It’s simply about availing yourself of the tools to do your job.”
I think this is the kind of initiative we need to be taking. We can not rely on the media or the officials to tell our story. We have always been willing to spend money to sell aircraft. I think now we need to spend money educating the public on the benefits of corporate travel to protect the image we have all worked hard to develop over the last several decades.
I wonder if a more direct approach might be more effective in countering some of the bad stories out there. When the Auto companies were attacked for using their aircraft to fly to DC, several inaccurate news stories were circulated about the cost of that trip. What if Gulfstream had spent some money to run a full page ad in the Wallstreet Journal with the real operating cost on GM’s G-350’s for that trip? If the 350 were only carrying one passenger, the numbers might not look great. But, I am certain GM had a bevy of attorneys, accountants and advisors with them that day. On a per seat per mile basis, the trip might have actually been more expensive on the airlines, or at least competitive.
Although I think it would be a good idea for the manufacturers to take on this task, let’s face it, spending more money today for most of us doesn’t sound good. I would argue though that now is the time to raid the emergency coffers in NBAA. I can’t imagine many have dropped their membership this year, and last I heard they had a good amount of cash in the war fund. Let’s put that money to work for all your loyal members out here. Just my two cents.
Toby J. Smith
JBA Aviation, Inc.