July 15, 2011

“Here in Silicon Valley we have a lot of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve found this is a people business,” said John Swaney, chief pilot for Hewlett-Packard, at NBAA’s San Jose Business Aviation Regional Forum held on July 14. “In our community, you need to be able to talk to the people in the hangar next door. It just doesn’t happen without people coming into contact with each other.”

More than a thousand people came together – in the real world – for the all-day event at Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to showcase the vitality of the business aviation industry, share best practices and network with their peers. The Regional Forum drew 1,131 Attendees, 75 Exhibitors and 17 aircraft on static display.

Celebrating Strength of Community

Welcoming the Attendees to San Jose alongside NBAA was the newly formed Northern California Business Aviation Association (NCBAA), which also hosted a career mentoring event for local college students the day before. Mentoring, advocacy and safety are the founding pillars of the new regional group, said Swaney, NCBAA president.

As the final Regional Forum of the year, the event built excitement for NBAA’s 64th Annual Meeting & Convention – returning to Las Vegas, NV this October for the first time in six years. It’s taken years to develop new arrival and departure procedures for Las Vegas’ main general aviation airport, Henderson Executive (HND), reported Dan Burkhart, NBAA’s western regional representative. “In the last few years we’ve sometimes heard that NBAA doesn’t come west of the Mississippi,” said Burkhart. “This is proof we do.”

The importance of business aviation on the West Coast could not be overstated. The economic impact of general aviation in California alone totals $18.2 billion, which “outweighs the entire economies of some small countries,” remarked NBAA Vice President, Safety, Security & Regulation Doug Carr.

Standing Strong Against President’s Attacks

“California is an impressive economic engine and there’s so much business here that relies on general aviation,” said Carr during his remarks to Attendees. “Business aviation is all of us; all of you are needed to make us strong.”

Carr said the industry needed to be strong right now because “we are facing, once again, another misinformed attack on our industry.” In the course of the White House’s battle with Congress over the budget, Carr said, President Obama unexpectedly turned on business aviation in a June 29 press conference, denigrating business aircraft operators and calling for extended depreciation schedules.

In an education session on business aircraft tax deductions, NBAA Tax Committee member George Rice, CPA, explained exactly what changes to the depreciation schedule for business aircraft Obama was proposing.

“Differences in depreciation lives are not tax loopholes,” said Rice. “Why would President Obama single out business aviation for a longer depreciation schedule, continually calling it a ‘multibillion dollar tax loophole’? This five-year life applies to a wide variety of machinery and equipment throughout industry.”

When Carr asked how many Attendees had used NBAA’s Contact Congress resource to tell their representatives in Washington to reject the president’s attempt to vilify business aviation, nearly two thirds of the people in the room raised their hands.

“We want you to know that we’re all over this,” said Carr, detailing NBAA’s response, including interviews on CNN, CNBC, NPR and other news outlets. “We are not going to sit back and let this happen to us. We are responding forcefully every opportunity that we get.”