Director's Viewpoint

July 22, 2009
What's Good for the Goose?

Having just returned from the EBACE conference in Europe, I can report a high state of optimism. There were more than 10,000 in attendance. All the OEMs were present, plus more than 400 exhibitors. While business aviation has been undergoing harsh criticism in these last months from political sources, it should be given much credit for waging the good fight to make sure the geo-political arena is aware of its contributions to the economies of many countries.

Having become an owner of a very large auto manufacturing concern as most of you have, I have become acutely aware of a dissimilar treatment toward our industry versus the auto industry. Ours is an industry that, while not perfect, has continually met the challenges of changing technologies, regulations, and populace movements. We do it by pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, starting, failing, and restarting until we get it right. Isn’t that the American way? On the other hand, we as taxpayers are now being forced to bail out an industry that has been mired in its own bureaucratic morass for years, continually losing sales margins to overseas competitors that have responded to the need for change in automobile manufacturing, sales, and customer service.

OK, I accept it would be bad to let GM close down and have all those people on unemployment. On the other hand, why do the same people that have set this scenario for GM’s rescue continue to disparage general aviation, and in particular, business aviation? General aviation employs more than 1.2 million people and contributes to the incomes of another 7 million. That is a fair slice of the populace. I wonder … if Cessna, Beech, or Gulfstream were to need financial aid, would the government come to their aid? I doubt it would be forthcoming. How about Boeing? I would certainly hope so, because in my view, they are just as critical to the economic health of the country as GM.

True, GM is an “icon,” but so too were Pan Am, TWA, and Douglas, to name a few of the symbols that have passed in my lifetime. Each was allowed to close and other capital was used to help restructure their assets into a new profitable part of a business. This is the American way.

Aviation represents the new frontier. It is the safety valve through which nations expand outward and grow. It is the foremost technological contributor to man’s expansion beyond his normal shores. Its importance to this country cannot be understated. So, while hundreds of thousands of employees from various aeronautical firms are being laid off and companies are closing, I suggest our government provide some marginal support to soften the blows. This includes rhetoric that provides the public with a true picture of the importance of our industry to the country.

Our industry has never had its hand out and you don’t see it starting now — though what’s good for goose …