General aviation activity in the Hudson River Valley and Long Island Sound areas is slower than it was a year ago, but remains “higher than expected,” according to Ken Valenti, a reporter for The Lower Hudson Journal News, who learned a lot about GA by flying with Larry Gottschamer, director of operations for Performance Flight, a flight school and airplane rental business based at Westchester County Airport.
Valenti tells his story amusingly – “the most nerve-racking words I’ve ever heard were ‘And when we get to a safe altitude, I’ll let you take control,'” for example – but treated his new knowledge seriously.
“Here I was, learning how a small tilt of the [yoke] could direct the four-seat single propeller airplane along the Taconic, over to Danbury, then down along Long Island Sound, when I’d only set out to find out whether the sagging economy has been affecting general aviation, which includes private pilots, corporate jets and charter flights,” Valenti wrote. “And it is. But several aviation businesses based at Westchester County Airport said they’re not being hit hard.”
Despite a slacking off, Matt Tary, a Piper sales manager with Columbia Aircraft Sales, said interest has stayed higher than expected. “It’s been a pleasant surprise. It hasn’t been as bad as we thought it would be,” Tary told Valenti. “We’ve seen a downturn, but in the long term there will be growth,” he was told by FAA spokesman Hank Price, who projected that there will be more licensed pilots and more hours spent in the air.
Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, told Valenti the downturn hit so fast, it was tough to say whether the FAA’s forecast gave the whole picture, although Price said the reports have a reputation for accuracy. “There is a glut of used corporate jets on the market right now,” Dancy said. “People have been cutting back, putting their aircraft on the market, not flying as much and, when they do need them, turning to charter instead of new ownership.”
Lewis Liebert, president of Performance Flight, said one of his clients is on the board of directors of Cornell University. “He can get to Ithaca in an hour and fifteen minutes in a plane,” Liebert said.
Jon Boyd, director of sales and marketing at Panorama Flight Service, a flight school and aviation sales and service company at the airport for more than a half century, commented that “it’s kind of hypocritical for government leaders to pick on people who fly corporate or private jets because so much government work is done by airplane. Air Force One isn’t the name of a go-cart.” Boyd said he’d seen a slight slowdown, but is seeing a seasonal uptick, now. “We have seen these types of slowdowns in the past,” he said, “but it will come back.”
To read the full story: www.lohud.com/article/2009904200327