Business aviation offers many important contributions to citizens, companies and communities across the United States. In fact, the nation’s general aviation (GA) industry – which includes business aviation – contributes $219 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and supports more than one million stable, high-wage jobs in this country.
The vast majority of companies relying on business aviation are small and medium size companies, and it has been consistently demonstrated that companies using aviation outperform their competitors that do not. Despite these benefits, however, this proud American industry continually faces regulatory and legislative challenges on the national, state and local levels.
Potential obstacles to the freedom and mobility provided through business aviation include threats to close valued and historic airports; potential limits on GA operations within the national airspace system (NAS); and constant legislative pressure to implement onerous user fees.
While such challenges often seem omnipresent, one of the most effective ways for NBAA and other industry stakeholders to respond to such obstacles is by continually demonstrating the vital social, economic, and humanitarian roles played by business aviation.
Often, this means seeking out personal, firsthand accounts of the industry’s seldom considered effects on everyday life. Indeed, the most powerful method to highlight these valuable roles, particularly to congressional lawmakers, is when citizens share their stories, in their own words, about the importance of business aviation to their lives, companies, and communities.
For Companies, Planes Mean Gains
As one example, NBAA earlier this year highlighted the story of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman, WA. The electronics power-systems manufacturer prides itself on providing employees with the resources they need to succeed at their jobs, and that principle explains the company’s use of business aircraft.
When company founder Ed Schweitzer traveled to visit his first customer – located five states away, in Minnesota – more than 30 years ago, it took “three [airline] legs and you started by going 250 miles the wrong way.” That experience provided the impetus for Schweitzer to purchase a Cessna Citation Bravo for company travel; today, SEL’s engineers and specialists are the most frequent travelers onboard the company’s fleet of Citation jets, providing customer training and assistance.
“I’m convinced we would not be a company of 3,700 people without business aviation,” Schweitzer said in the May/June 2015 edition of NBAA’s flagship member publication, Business Aviation Insider. “Recently some of our engineers and assemblers flew to New York to look at the latest electronic assembly line equipment. As employee-owners, they’re using the company’s tools – the airplanes – to make an investment decision on the tools they use on the manufacturing floor.”
Laurel, MS-based poultry producer Sanderson Farms also understands the benefits that business aviation can bring to companies of all sizes. On any given day, five of the company’s six aircraft are in service flying supervisors, training instructors, environmental inspectors and tax auditors, or one of the company’s 12,000 other employees, between 11 facilities located from Texas to North Carolina.
“There’s no way our people could operate as efficiently as they do without the aircraft,” noted Robin Robinson, Sanderson’s director of organizational development. “The flight department’s not an expense; it’s an investment that gives a return many times over.”
Planes Mean Gains in Communities, Too
While you might expect NBAA to highlight such stories about the importance of business aviation, similar tales may also be found in thousands of local communities; consider the a sampling of recent news coverage highlighting business aviation’s benefits to towns of all sizes:
The small general aviation airport serving the community of Newton, KS contributes almost $57 million in annual economic activity, according to an economic impact report published by the state’s transportation department. Airport manager Brian Palmer cited that number to city commissioners, according to a July article in The Kansan newspaper, as evidence of the airport’s contributions not just from fuel sales and flight training at Newton City/County Airport (EWK), but also in money spent by airport businesses and visitors to the city.
In a recent edition of the McCook (NE) Gazette, columnist Dick Trail, himself a pilot, noted that the town’s local airport, where several business airplanes are based, employs more than 25 people. “The two-person flight crews of those business aircraft use our good restaurants, [and] occasionally shop our stores,” he added. “In a sense, our airport is owned by each of us and we can look on it with pride.”
Also in June, the NBC affiliate in Omaha, NE took a closer look at business aircraft operations at the airport, and noted that such flights help contribute more than $1.2 billion annually to Nebraska’s economic output. “[T]hat’s real cash being spent in Omaha and it has a very real, positive impact,” added reporter covering the story, who also noted the industry’s important roles in supporting agriculture, medical, law-enforcement and disaster-relief efforts in the state.
Stories like these are being told in towns and communities across the country, and they often lead state and local officials to formally recognize the importance of business aviation in proclamations. In fact, state and local leaders have issued more than 70 such proclamations already this year.
Annual NBAA Convention Offers Powerful Examples of Industry’s Many Roles
As powerfully as these individual examples display the value of business aviation in promoting local job creation, investment and economic activity, perhaps the single-greatest opportunity to highlight these advantages comes at NBAA’s annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2015), which will take place November 17-19 in Las Vegas, NV.
The world’s largest event dedicated to business aviation, NBAA2015 is expected to bring together about 25,000 attendees – including current and prospective business aircraft owners, manufacturers, and local economic-planning officials – into one meeting place. The three-day event will also feature esteemed international government and aviation officials, who will share their perspectives on the central role of business aviation in transportation and economic development in the United States, and even around the world.
NBAA2015 will also feature dozens of Education Sessions that will highlight the benefits of business aviation. More than 1,000 exhibitors will display their products and services, and approximately 100 business aircraft will be parked side-by-side, at two static display areas, for attendees to review and compare.
On behalf of NBAA’s more than 10,000 members, I look forward to welcoming Expansion Solutions readers to Las Vegas later this year for NBAA2015 so you may learn more about the essential role of business aviation today.