May 5, 2023

A recent report by a partisan Washington group, the Institute for Policy Studies, puts forward a caricature about business aviation, ignoring important facts about an essential American industry. View the full report.

Business aviation supports more than a million jobs, generates nearly $250 billion in economic activity, connects towns and communities across the country and provides flights for important humanitarian causes.

Independent studies have repeatedly concluded that 85% of companies relying on an airplane to meet their transportation challenges are small and mid-size enterprises. The passengers aboard a business airplane are typically technicians, mid-level managers and customers, not C-suite executives. Eighty percent of business flights are to and from small towns and communities with little or no airline service. Many flights conducted by business airplanes are used for humanitarian missions, including those that transport doctors and other first responders to people in need.

The study not only looks past these key data points, but the companies behind them. For example, the report’s DC-based authors may not be familiar with the Pullman, WA-based company that uses a business airplane to monitor key installations providing power to the region’s electric grid. They may not have spent a day with employees at the Marshall, MN-based company – that town’s largest employer – that relies on its turboprop airplane to reach food-distribution centers dotting small towns across the country. They may never have heard of the Phoenix-based medical company that deploys its airplanes for flights that bring doctors to patients in rural areas without big-city medical specialists.

But perhaps the report’s most glaring factual omission involves business aviation’s legacy of achievements in sustainable flight, which have been adopted across the industry. Simply put, business aviation has been a test bed for technologies that reduce the sector’s carbon footprint, and pave the way for realizing the established goal of achieving net-zero emissions from business aircraft by 2050.

How can it be that the 30-plus-page study misses entirely the game-changing breakthroughs, pioneered by business aviation, that have been key to reaching this net-zero goal, like lightweight composites, winglets, satellite-based avionics and a host of other carbon-cutting technologies? After all, these and other technologies have made business aviation flights more fuel-efficient than ever, with new aircraft operating as much as 30% more efficiently than the models they replace.

Also disregarded by the study: the important work to make tomorrow’s carbon-cutting innovations a reality today. Business airplanes are increasingly flying on Sustainable Aviation Fuel, which has the potential to decrease carbon emissions by up to 80% over traditional fuels. And, business aviation is leading the way in developing next-generation propulsion systems for more sustainable hybrid, electric and even hydrogen-powered aircraft.

As a final deceptive claim, the study suggests dramatic hikes in costs for those relying on business aviation to operate in the nation’s air transportation system, looking past the reality – as noted by no less an authority than the International Civil Aviation Organization – that the system’s are largely driven by the operations of commercial airlines, given the scale and complexity of the carriers’ hub-and-spoke operations. The FAA has long used the same economist-accepted cost allocation methodology to reach the same conclusion.
Unsurprisingly, the report provides none of this information, instead falling back on the tired practice of disparaging an entire industry to sound a predictable call for a raft of punitive taxes, fees and regulations disguised as “proposals.” Rather than being distracted by the overheated rhetoric the report offers in support of this agenda, NBAA urges an honest discussion of business aviation’s societal benefits and environmental leadership.