Defend, innovate, grow. This is the rally call we’ve adopted at Cessna as we work through one of the most devastating down cycles in our company’s 83 years in business. It is a mantra that the general aviation industry as a whole could adopt as well.
General aviation must defend its role in the transportation system and the world’s economy, it must catch up with innovations in technology, and it must grow by solving the problem of the dwindling pilot population, for example. In all three areas it’s important that we unite as a community and work well with others, from the airlines to federal agencies to elected officials on every level.
Defend: The GA industry has a great story to tell, but we need to tell it more often. That means all of you must become ambassadors. Are you one of the 600,000 pilots, among the 1.2 million employed in the GA industry, or do you have a connection to one of the 5,000 airports that serve GA in the United States? There are many ways you can get engaged to help tell our story. If you need help getting started, visit these websites: noplanenogain.org, aopa.org/engage, or gaservesamerica.org.
We’ve seen success in the past year from unprecedented collaboration between industry stakeholders and key policy drivers.
General aviation caucuses have been formed in both the House and Senate, ensuring that GA’s essential role in every state is considered by lawmakers.
Feedback from owners and operators was key in getting the Transportation Security Administration to consider the way general aviation operates when developing new security and safety regulations.
We successfully kept aviation user fees out of the FAA reauthorization bill. However, this and many other issues require our ongoing vigilance.
Innovate: Finding an alternative to leaded fuel that leaves no airplane grounded, integrating new technologies to improve efficiency and lower emissions, moving forward with air traffic control system modernization that is not cost prohibitive and adds real benefit for owners and operators—all of these are regulatory challenges that need innovative solutions. It must be a collective effort from manufacturers such as Cessna; the thousands of supporting businesses we rely on; industry groups such as AOPA, EAA, and GAMA; and all who fly.
Grow: If you’re reading this, you, too, are likely fascinated by flight. When an airplane flies overhead, I can’t help but look up to see what it is. The majority of the world isn’t that way anymore. The wonder of flight is not what it used to be, and it’s up to us—pilots, aircraft owners, aviation enthusiasts—to bring back some of that magic. Being an ambassador for our industry means sharing the GA experience and recruiting more people to fly.
We’ve made progress in the areas of defending, innovating, and growing, but there is much more work to be done. Engagement is critical.
At the end of 2010, the Wichita Aero Club hosted a panel of senior leaders of five industry trade groups including AOPA. The overriding theme was how much our GA community can accomplish together. That’s exactly what we need on all of these issues. The past two years have taught us that pulling together as a community is the way to protect and promote our industry. The key is to never stop defending, innovating, and growing.
Jack J. Pelton is chairman, president, and CEO of Cessna Aircraft Company, he joined Cessna Aircraft Company in 2000.