January 3, 2013

NBAA routinely fields inquiries from representatives with news organizations and other individuals about what business aviation is and how it is used in the U.S. To clear up a number of misperceptions, NBAA has provided the questions most often asked of the Association, with responses that lay out the facts to explain how business aviation helps companies of all sizes remain nimble, competitive and successful, especially in a difficult economic climate.

Q: Policymakers in Washington and elsewhere have had some pretty negative things to say about business jets in recent years. Are they right?

A: Negative statements about business aviation are often founded on unfounded stereotypes that are not at all representative of the industry. The facts are that 85 percent of the companies that rely on business aviation are small and mid-size companies, many of whom operate to or from communities with limited airline service. The majority of the time, companies are using a single airplane to fly teams of mid-level people who need to discuss proprietary information en route or move parts and equipment they can’t take on commercial airlines.

Q: You mentioned mid-level people traveling aboard these airplanes. But most of the time, aren’t they basically used for CEO transportation?

A: Actually, top management is only aboard the airplane about 15 percent of the time. And, while each company has its own policies for use of business aircraft, many companies have a first-come-first-served policy for use of the aircraft.

Q: Are policymakers’ views of business aviation changing?

A: The process of informing their views is an ongoing one, but it’s clear that more elected officials realize that business aviation is essential to our economy and transportation system. It generates jobs; gives a lifeline to communities with little or no airline service; helps companies stay efficient and competitive; and is vital to humanitarian and relief efforts.

Q: Why would a company ever require an executive to fly exclusively on a private airplane?

A: Some companies want their top people to be in constant communication with the home office. Security is also often a consideration, especially for companies with a high public profile; business aircraft allow employees to discuss proprietary information in a secure environment and without fear of eavesdropping. And companies want to ensure that executives are able to maintain flexible and nimble schedules, with reliable transportation access to all the places they may need to reach on a moment’s notice.

Q: Don’t companies basically just use these planes to avoid the hassles of airline travel?

A: Companies that have their own airplane often use the airlines. Taken together, companies using business aviation collectively spend $11 billion annually on travel with the airlines. NBAA makes available software called “Travel$ense,” which helps businesses determine the best transportation option for a given mission.

Q: What would you say to employees who have been laid off by a company that uses a business airplane?

A: In order to survive in very challenging economic times, companies need every tool possible to help them be efficient and productive. Like computer software, an airplane is a strategic asset that helps people do more in less time. It’s a tool that allows them to meet more potential customers, stay closer to the critical customers they have, turn employee travel time into work time, open new markets. This is not the time to take tools that enhance productivity and efficiency out of the toolbox.

Q: You can fly from New York to LA on JetBlue for a couple hundred dollars. That same flight on a Gulfstream 550 would cost tens of thousands of dollars. How could that be a good use of a company’s money?

A: Business aviation may not make economic sense on every trip. But, for a huge number of trips, it not only makes economic sense, it may be the only way to get the trip done. In recent years, over 100 communities have lost some or all of their airline service. If you need to go to or from one of those cities, business aviation may make sense. If you are running a company in Kansas City and you need to go to Nashville, Shreveport and Tulsa in a single day, business aviation makes sense. If you are trying to move products or equipment that can’t be taken on the airlines, business aviation makes sense.

Q: Isn’t business aviation bad for the environment?

A: Business airplanes are very efficient on emissions, and are getting more efficient all the time. The entire business aviation industry produces just a tiny fraction of transportation emissions. Plus, business aircraft manufacturers and operators are leaders in pushing for a new air transportation system that will be more efficient, and therefore “greener,” that the current system.

Q: Aren’t all those airplanes an excessive security risk? After all, no one knows who’s on them, where they’re going – and the passengers don’t even have to walk through screeners like the rest of us.

A: The business aviation community has worked side by side with the federal government to implement a variety of security requirements and best practices that help ensure the safety and security of aircraft and the people who use them. Most people don’t know that an Airport Watch program has long been in place, with a 24/7 toll-free number to report suspicious activity. The pilots who fly business airplanes are checked against no-fly and watch lists. They carry tamper-proof licenses at all times. The government has even set up a system to monitor suspicious aircraft sales and transactions. These and other security measures are different than those in place for the airlines, because business airplanes are used differently than those for the airlines. But security is every bit as high a priority for the people and companies that own and fly these airplanes.

Q: Aren’t these small airplanes unsafe? I feel like I’m always seeing something in the news about people dying in a small-airplane crash.

A: The fact is, airplanes used for business have a safety record that’s comparable to that for the airlines. The companies that hire business aviation pilots have minimums for training and flight-time experience. Additionally, the recurrent training facilities for business aviation pilots uphold the same rigorous standards as those for training airline pilots. Thanks to these and other safety measures, business airplanes safely fly thousands of hours each year to help companies reach customers, access markets with little or no airline service, work productively while en route to a destination, and transport equipment that can’t be taken aboard an airliner.