Letters to Media

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Clearing the Air in the Debate Over Business Aviation

NBAA submitted this opinion piece to the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on August 7, 2009, in the wake of media coverage surrounding the government's request for a purchase of two Gulfstream jets to support military missions.

August 7, 2009

By Ed Bolen

The news coverage this week surrounding the government’s planned purchase of three Gulfstream aircraft predictably cast business airplanes as an excessive alternative to airline travel.

That’s a shame, because the reality is that public and private organizations of all shapes and sizes face a multitude of transportation challenges. The most appropriate way to address these challenges depends on the situation. And often, the situation necessitates the use of a business airplane.

One example can be found in this week’s 24-hour trip to North Korea by former President Clinton on a business jet to secure the release and return to the U.S. of two imprisoned journalists. But aside from this mission, there are many other situations when it makes sense to use a business airplane rather than a scheduled airline.

For example: when business people need to reach multiple sites in a single day; when attempting to reach a destination with little or no airline service; when a number of people need to travel together and conduct business along the way; when people need to discuss proprietary information without fear of eavesdropping; when the people aboard the plane must remain in contact with their colleagues on the ground; and when tools or equipment must be transported that can’t be taken aboard the airlines or shipped as cargo. 

The list goes on but these examples are illustrative. 

The business airplane may not be the right tool for every mission. But, far too often, news coverage of business aviation leaves the mistaken impression that anything that can be accomplished with a business airplane can be accomplished on the commercial airlines. That simply is not the case, and the time has come to recognize that the airlines do not work in every situation, which is why business aviation is a complementary service to airline travel.

A business airplane allows organizations to do more in less time, and often at less cost, than other transportation alternatives. Productivity, flexibility and dependability are attributes of well-managed companies. They are also the benefits of business aviation.

This is why tens of thousands of cost-conscious, well-managed, U.S. companies, non-profits, state and local government agencies and other organizations rely on them, especially in these turbulent economic times.

As we look for ways to speed our nation’s return to economic growth, it is time to recognize that America needs tools that can help businesses remain nimble and competitive. The business airplane is one of these important tools, and we should be using it rather than disparaging it.

Mr. Bolen is President and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, which represents 8,000 Member companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful.