Businessmen praise airplanes’ benefits

July 31, 2009

GAMA President Pete Bunce tells business aviation’s story at Airventure in Oshkosh. GAMA President Pete Bunce tells business aviation’s story at Airventure in Oshkosh.

Seven business airplanes were parked in front of the Airbus A380 on AeroShell Square in Oshkosh, Wis., on July 31 as part of EAA Airventure’s Business Aviation Day. During a press conference, representatives of the companies that operate those airplanes—a Pilatus PC-12, Cessna Citation CJ1, Hawker Premier, Piaggio Avanti II, Lear 40XR, Falcon 50, and Gulfstream G200—discussed how they use their business aircraft to manage rapidly changing situations and capitalize on new business opportunities that they otherwise could not.

“After the auto execs flew into Washington and the vilification of general aviation began, we knew we had to get busy,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce. Members of the GAMA board, representatives of aircraft manufacturers, and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt joined him for the press conference.

“As you know, our industry has suffered”—along with a lot of other industries—from the economy, said Gulfstream President Joe Lombardo. But business aviation also found its image under attack. “Our message has a critical focus and that is jobs.”

Lombardo talked about fractional operator NetJets, which operates more than 800 aircraft, employs 7,800 people, and conducts 400,000 flights per year. “This is all about impact—the impact on their customers, saving them time, and making them more productive.”

“Our business jet has one purpose, and one purpose only—to grow our business and that of our customers,” said Keith Wells, chief operations officer of LaBov & Beyond, a marketing communications firm in Fort Wayne, Ind. The company operates a Cessna Citation CJ1. “Business today is at an all-time frantic pace,” he said, explaining that Fort Wayne is a small market with limited travel options.

Mark Zakula of Klein Tools explains how the company uses its Falcon 50 business jet, seen behind him. Mark Zakula of Klein Tools explains how the company uses its Falcon 50 business jet, seen behind him.

“We’re not ashamed of using our jet,” Wells added. “There’s no way we could grow our business as we have in the past several years without it.”

Klein Tools is a 150-year-old, family-owned company that currently operates a Falcon 50, Mark Zakula said. “We have plants scattered in a lot of remote areas that don’t have access to airline service,” he said.

Zakula said the company maximizes the use of its aircraft by announcing scheduled flights to employees who might need to travel to the same destinations, frequently allowing it to fill the seats. “We do multiple day trips in a single day,” he explained.

Jack Roush, CEO of Roush Industries, said he uses the company’s Hawker Premier to travel between his Detroit-based engineering company’s 50 locations across the country, as well as to manage 10 NASCAR race teams. In 30 months of service the airplane has flown 1,100 hours.

“My business could not have grown as it has over the past 20 years” without aircraft, he said, citing an increase in annual revenue from $50 million to $500 million. “It avails me the time to do the things I need to do in this busy life.”

Mike Collins

Mike Collins | Technical Editor, AOPA

Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.