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."
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
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."
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
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.