“Remember the old days, back when people had little respect for business airplanes simply because they knew next to nothing about them? Those were the good old days until the guys from the motor companies jumped on their airplanes in Detroit to head for Washington to beg for cash. That was a PR blunder for sure,” wrote Robert Mark, publisher of the Jet Whine newsletter on Jan. 30.
“My stance, essentially, is that companies using business airplanes as legitimate tools of the trade have been hiding those machines in the weeds so long they’ve become their own worst enemies.”
In fact, Mark wrote, “While the auto industry execs trip may have evolved into a colossal PR blunder, not to mention great fodder for some of the TV networks, using those business airplanes for the trip to Washington that day was not a bad business move. Mulally, Nardelli and Wagoner used their airplanes for precisely the purpose they bought them for in the first place: swift efficient transportation for people being paid enough money to warrant the expense.”
Mark has a point. If, as he stated, the media were hounding executives about what kind of computers they used or how much they cost, “those execs would have told them to take a long walk off a short plank.”
“Where are the corporate communications people? Mark asked. “Why aren’t they out there telling the story in an attempt to balance off the negative publicity?” His answer to those questions is that, as President Obama tries to crack down on those in the finance business who gave themselves huge bonuses even as they accepted TARP funds, airplane users have gone farther underground “just as they need to be climbing closer to the light of day.” If bankers had used TARP money to buy their airplanes, people should have been upset, but that was not the case.
“We have seen the enemy and it is us,” Mark quoted Pogo.
“I’m embarrassed at the lack of fight I’ve seen in business aviation operators. Just when we need people to pull together, [they] are jumping ship, selling airplanes and canceling orders, all out of fear of what might be,” Mark wrote. “Thousands seem to be waiting for NBAA to fight this battle for them on the Hill while they hide their airplanes away in their hangars.”
However, Mark stated, “If we stand by and allow Congress to dictate business terms that remove a valuable business tool from our arsenal, we deserve what happens next. More airplanes will fall idle and more orders will be canceled out of some un-named fear. What if business becomes worse? What if more media jump on the CitiGroup and Starbucks of the world and ask why we own these darned flying machines?”
NBAA‘s Ed Bolen told his membership on Jan. 28, “While NBAA’s work to advocate for the industry will continue, your direct involvement in our efforts is as critical as ever. Your voice is needed to remind policymakers in Washington that business aviation generates jobs, economic activity and local investment in every state and congressional district in the country. We need policymakers to advance proposals that allow companies in business aviation to survive and keep people working.”
Mark agreed. “If we all stand by cowering as if we’ve done something wrong by owning and using a business airplane, we’ll create precisely the kind of chaos we’re all hoping to avoid. We’ll look as if all the things being said in the media…are true.
“They’re not … are they?” he asked.