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Fri, Jul 31, 2009

Business Aviation Celebrated At Oshkosh

Gulfstream And Falcon And Lear. Oh My!

By Tom Patton, ANN News Editor

AeroShell Square was ringed with some of the best-known business aircraft flying Friday afternoon, as EAA President Tom Poberezny, GAMA President Pete Bunce, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, and a parade of professionals brought the message of business aviation to the worlds largest sport aviation show.

That message is jobs, and that business aviation has been unfairly pilloried by Congress and the Obama Administration. The issue was pushed into the spotlight when automakers flew into Washington on corporate jets for Congressional hearings, and has been taking hits ever since. GAMA assembled a lineup of corporate leaders to bring a positive business aviations message to the Oshkosh crowd, and the industry media. "Business Aviation is strong," Bunce declared at the top of the news conference. "It is spurring the recovery."

Pete Bunce

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt set the tone for the speakers who followed him to the podium. "I can't understate the value of General Aviation," he said. "The manufacturing is critical to the economy. So many high-tech jobs are associated with aviation."

Babbitt reiterated some of the same points made at the previous day's "Meet the Administrator" session. He talked again about how NextGen navigation will make thousands of airports accessible through precision approaches at airports around the country that could not afford to install ILS equipment. "We are being aggressive in writing the approaches," he said. NextGen technology will be responsible for "savings of 1 billion gallons of fuel annually," he said. "The technology is here. It doesn't need anything but implementation."

Randy Babbitt

Bunce said GAMA has reinstated the "No Plane, No Gain" campaign to tell the story of how business aviation affects the economy. "General Aviation serves America," he said, and it's all about creating a tremendous number of jobs.

Gulfstream President Joe Lombardo said "The President and Congress attacked our image." He said he has been spending time talking to local, state, and federal officials about the economic impact of business aviation. He discussed NetJet, which is the nations oldest fractional ownership company. Not only are companies like NetJet providing jobs for pilots, dispatchers, and maintenance people, but the economic impact ripples out to hotels, restaurants, caterers, and others in the service and support sector. He said those in the aviation community need to stay positive. "Maintain a positive attitude, and take every opportunity to share a positive message with the media, state, and local officials."

Joe Lombardo

Keith Welz, COO of LaBov and Beyond Communications in Ft. Wayne, IN, said the company's business jet has one purpose: "To grow our business and our client's business." He said Ft. Wayne is the 84th largest city in the country, with  limited access to commercial airlines. The jet allows he and his company to be more productive. "Business is at an all time frantic pace," he said. "We have to be able to respond fast. We're not ashamed of using a jet. We feel there's no way we could have grown our business without it."

And so it went.

Neal Verfuerth, President and CEO of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, WI, said his Pilatus PL-12 is his "secret weapon", which has allowed him to grow his business from $4 million to $80 million since it's founding in 1996. Many of the executives spoke of their business airplanes as "Time Machines", which allow them to travel to remote operations and installations and back in the same day, while allowing the travel time to be productive, and not just as a perk of being a top executive.

The news conference, and Business Aviation Day, served to remind many that business aviation is not well understood by the public, nor many in public office. You can expect to hear a lot more from this segment of the industry, as they stress the importance of business aviation to the overall health of the economy.

FMI: www.gama.aero

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