January 14, 2011

Companies in North Dakota run the gamut of sizes from large to very small, but their employees have one thing in common: they all know that doing business in the state can mean that lots of ground must be covered between cities and communities. And, often, the best way to ensure that business is done most efficiently is through the use of an airplane.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands the value of an airplane as a strategic business tool. So, to help educate citizens and elected officials in North Dakota about the value of using general aviation (GA) aircraft for business, members of the North Dakota Aviation Council are forming an advocacy group.

“An airplane is a tremendous business tool for so many reasons,” said Jon Simmers of Bismarck Aero Center. “It makes us a smaller state, and we want to inform the public about that reality and general aviation’s other benefits to North Dakota.

“We’re planning to show people that general aviation provides for medical missions and relief,” Simmers continued. For example, Simmers said, when the banks of North Dakota’s Red River flooded in March 2010, business aviation was there to assist relief efforts and monitor conditions on the ground. Fargo Jet Center employees sandbagged the river banks as the company provided support for airplanes used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor flood conditions, and a North Dakota Army Guard Blackhawk helicopter providing local and state officials an overview of the disaster.

In addition to the value of general aviation in the wake of natural disasters, Simmers added that general aviation also supports key industries in the state. As an example, Simmons pointed to the airplanes used by aerial sprayers that tend to North Dakota farms and crops. “General aviation puts food on the table for so many people,” Simmers said.

Last year, the contributions made by general aviation to North Dakota’s economy and transportation system were recognized by the state’s governor and Congressional lawmakers. Governor Jack Dalrymple, then a lieutenant governor, and his predecessor, Governor John Hoeven, signed a statewide proclamation declaring a “North Dakota Aviation Week” in March. In Washington, DC, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) is a member of the General Aviation Caucus, which seeks to promote the value of general aviation to Washington policymakers.

General aviation contributes approximately $248.28 million and around 2,598 jobs to North Dakota, according to the Alliance for Aviation Across America, and is home to a renowned aviation school at the University of North Dakota.

“We look forward to helping the North Dakota Aviation Council launch its advocacy campaign and encouraging other aviation groups across the country to do the same,” said Bob Quinn, NBAA regional representative, adding that NBAA’s regional representatives can help groups like this council become effective advocates for the industry.

Quinn noted that the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, jointly hosted by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, provides a host of resources that people in the business aviation community can use at the local level in supporting their advocacy efforts. As just three examples, Quinn pointed to three recently produced resources – a study, a business aviation video and a Business Aviation Fact Book – which all highlight the value of business aviation to citizens, companies and communities across the U.S.