President's Perspective

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Taking the Measure of a Momentous Year

By Ed Bolen

It would be no exaggeration to say 2009 has been one of the more remarkable and turbulent years in recent memory. The business aviation community has survived a daunting year of challenges, beginning with the worst economic conditions the industry has faced in decades.

This year, NBAA Members have seen steep declines in flight hours, substantial job losses, reduced work hours, significant declines in airplane sales and an increase in the number of used aircraft in the inventory.

Such economic hardships would have been burden enough. But these business challenges occurred in a climate of misperception and mischaracterization of business aviation from figures in Washington's policy and media circles.

Our economic difficulties were exacerbated when late last year, the conversation in Washington about the appropriateness of business aircraft use by auto executives seeking government assistance quickly turned to whether business aviation was ever appropriate, under any circumstances.

A Washington policy environment in which disparaging or discouraging the use of a business aircraft becomes the norm would have spelled disaster for NBAA Members. After all, more than a million people are employed in business aviation; tens of thousands of companies depend on an airplane to succeed; and communities across the country rely on business aviation to provide a transportation lifeline.

In February NBAA joined with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and quickly launched a comprehensive advocacy campaign with a familiar name: No Plane No Gain. The campaign has been focused on educating policymakers and opinion leaders about the value of business aviation to citizens, companies and communities across the U.S.

The effort has made extensive use of advertising, media interviews, online outreach, grassroots initiatives and direct communications with Capitol Hill officials to respond to attacks on business aviation and correct misperceptions. Equally important, the people in NBAA's Membership have stood up and made their voices heard – with their elected officials, their local news organizations and their neighbors.

At year's end, the business aviation community is still standing, and we have reasons for guarded optimism.

In Congress, the House has passed a resolution supporting all of general aviation, including business aviation. The House and Senate each have formed a General Aviation Caucus, in recognition of the importance of business aviation. Governors in Kansas, Georgia and Arkansas have publicly spoken in support of the industry. Seventy mayors from 25 states have signed a letter to President Obama in support of business aviation.

However, we know we'll need to keep the momentum going, to tell the story of the importance of business aviation to thousands of communities and companies of all sizes, and to the economic recovery of the nation. We'll still be standing – and counting on you to stand with us.