No Plane Equals No Gain

Our airplanes, no matter what we fly, often become political targets.

You know the drill. A Piper Cub is the toy of a fat cat when the local airport comes under fire. And business jets have been vilified by many in the government, particularly since the Great Recession began in 2008.

Personal aviation, which to me means you are flying for your own reasons on your own schedule, is a very important industry in the U.S. Thousands and thousands of Americans work at building, supporting, and flying general aviation airplanes. We deserve as much support as any other activity. Maybe even more support because aviation is an important industry and activity in which the U.S. still leads the world.

But how can we help to change the perception of personal aviation? One way is to show how private aviation can grow and strengthen the economy and create jobs.

To help prove the case for private flying, the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) conducted a large study to compare how companies that use private airplanes have performed since the recession hit four years ago.

The results are impressive. Companies that operate airplanes have outperformed in every way those who don’t fly. Airplane using companies dipped 20 percent less during the depths of the recession and recovered about 40 percent faster by the end of 2011 compared to companies that don’t fly.

Similar studies over the years always show that businesses that use private aviation always outperform similar companies that don’t. But would that pattern hold in turbulent time such as we have experienced since 2008? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the airplane advantage is even more pronounced during difficult economic times.

The reason this study is so important to all of us is that business flying is the backbone of general aviation. When companies use a local airport to further business, that airport becomes much more important to the entire community. All of us benefit when a GA airport is improved, maintained, and valued by local government and the community.

Business flying also supports the FBO network and fuel supply infrastructure. It would be very difficult to stay in business as an FBO without the fuel sales business flying brings to GA airports.

And the support and manufacturing of airplanes and spare parts relies on the higher utilization of business travel.

All of us who fly know the value of traveling on our own schedule, using the airports we want instead of the few served by airlines, and being able to be flexible and free from the rigid procedures of the airlines and TSA. But the public and politicians either don’t know how important personal aviation is, or they ignore its value.

NBAA calls its study and its support for private flying No Plane No Gain. That’s a perfect slogan. Those who fly gain, but so does a big and important industry. Private flying provides thousands of American jobs directly, and the study proves that airplanes help create jobs as the companies that use airplanes grow.

Private flying is the issue, no matter what or why you fly. When we fly the economy wins and I hope politicians at all levels will understand that and help private flying grow and stop vilifying a very important industry.

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18 Responses to No Plane Equals No Gain

  1. Kayak Jack says:

    I hope this report is distributed to entities such as Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, Lions, etc. on local levels.

    • Mac says:

      Hi Jack,
      Details of the study are at The results are impressive to study. Businesses that use airplanes are very, very far ahead of their competitors who do not.
      Mac Mc

  2. Harold Bickford says:

    It is politically tough as GA has relatively few participants as does agriculture. The economic case is easy to establish yet few people actually have direct contact with those involved in GA and ag, for example.

    By all means make the case while realizing that many folks have no basis to evaluate GA other than the observation that the activity is expensive and thereby the domain of a few.

  3. Cary Alburn says:

    I think we’ve all experienced the “you must be rich” argument when others find out we own airplanes. That mine is 50 years old and only flies roughly twice the Interstate speed limit doesn’t detract from that unfounded belief. Yet others can spend $25,000 on a tricked out Harley, $65,000 on a boat that can only go from one end of the lake to the other, all of 7 or 8 miles, or $150,000 on a motorhome, and no one castigates them (other than the noise, maybe).

    Of course, as the saying goes, I have a real advantage with my little Cessna: one mile of runway takes me anywhere I want to go, right?

  4. James U. says:

    I know it is slightly off subject but if you love aviation at all. Take a look at the amazing 1\6 size sculptures at

  5. Jeff Land says:

    I am all for general aviation. I just am not in favor of any special government consideration (tax credits, etc.) for the purchase and/or use of an airplane.

  6. SkyGuy says:

    It’s the cost…..
    - High $$$ of new aircraft
    - High $$$ of fuel.
    - High $$$ of parts.
    - High $$$ of insurance.
    - High $$$ of storage.

  7. R BUTLER says:

    I am always amazed by comments by political types regarding the fat cat use of airplanes. Whenever I hear a political type criticize private aircraft use, I always ask myself who probably has more experience is using a private aircraft…me or them? Almost always the answer is them…and with them it is usually a business jet with somebody else picking up the tab. The only hypocrisy that bothers me more is when I hear a Hollywood type bad mouth the rich on some show when he probably lives in a mansion, has a Ferrari and travels on a private jet.

  8. Matt says:

    What a load of hogwash Mac.

    Any old interest group can go out there any find someone willing to conduct a ‘study’ that backs their agenda.

    It’s just another tool in the the corporate communications kit – oh, this study said x, y, z, there’s a clear correlation between this and that, the cow jumped over the moon. Whatever.

    That probably makes me sound like a socialist hater of business aviation, but I’m not actually.

    I just think that relying on voodoo economics to advance your cause is unhelpful.

    Business aviation, and indeed wider general aviation interests need to be seen as being fair minded and reasonable, with members willing to take responsibility for their share.

    Yes, in some cases that may mean paying fees for services that are more in line with what they cost, but hey, that’s Economics 101 right? Allocation of scarce resources and all that.

    There’s heaps of exciting stuff going on in aviation at the moment Mac. Surely you can find better things to write about on this blog.

    I’m sure the NBAA junkets are sublime, but your formidable talents are wasted when you’re peddling this sort nonsense.

    • Brian says:

      Matt, I gather if you do fly it is not for business purposes. I deal with manufacturing plants across the US and some in Mexico and fly myself to locations that are not served well by the airlines and take too long to get to driving. Flying has helped me grow my business by being able to cover more ground in the same available time. This has been especially crucial as our manufacturing base in the US has been shrinking. My sales are rising while others are shrinking. Yes there is a direct relationship to business activity and flying in my case.

      • Matt says:

        Brian – as I said, I have nothing against business aviation and readily acknowledge the benefits, particularly to regional businesspeople for whom there is no viable airline service. I do fly myself in my own plane, a PA46, on business trips from time to time.

        My beef is with the NBAA’s narrow view on what the future of business aviation should look like. Their lobbying focus is almost exclusively on clearing out as much cost and regulation as possible, regardless of whether this is responsible for society as a whole (avoiding user fees, claiming tax credits, etc).

        The reality is that the infrastructure and systems which support aviaiton cost money, and there seems to be little appetite for those who actually use it to pick up the tab.

        This is not a sustainable position to take.

        And back to my original point, Mac trotting out this piece of ‘research’ makes him sound like an NBAA shill. Surely there are more interesting things to write about here.

        • Brian says:

          Matt, I agree there is a cost to the services provided by ATC and other parts of the FAA. However, user fees are not the answer.

          We already have a collection system in place with fuel taxes. That is where the revenue should be collected as it would add no bureaucracy costs to implement. If user fees are established, a whole new bureaucracy will need to be created to send bills and collect fees and I am sure the likes of Lockheed and other well connected government contractors are ready to bid on what would be a very lucrative contract.

          The second and more disturbing reality is the compromise of safety that will occur with user fees, which the current administration has suggested at $100 or more for each leg of an IFR flight plan. How many pilots, especially those on the our end of the flying spectrum (owner flown) will try to avoid paying the fees and fly VFR in high traffic areas, scud run on short distance flights, etc. It would unleash a whole new level of accident statistics! In addition, what is to stop a biz jet making short repositioning flights in marginal VFR conditions flying with us slower planes in the lower altitudes just to avoid the fees? Yikes!

          In my opinion, user fees are a non-starter from a safety standpoint. It should also be noted, that the airlines and pilot unions are the ones pushing for user fees. You do not need to look far to see why. (Until a few months ago, the head of the FAA appointed by the current administration was the president of the Air Line Pilots Association Union. And yes, I am aware that user fees were also proposed in the the previous administration too, but at lower fee levels than are now proposed). They want us GA pilots out of their way and squash us as a competitor and coerce us into flying the airlines.

          The more GA planes and pilots they can force out of using private planes for travel will only end up costing those who can afford to remain in the game more money. The fewer pilots we have to spread the cost over, the more each will pay for all services we buy to maintain, insure, hangar, etc.

          • Kayak Jack says:

            Up the stream a ways, Brian brings up user fees. That would certainly curtail my flying. I use flight following almost every flight, even short ones under 20 miles. Almost every flight I’m cautioned, and likely diverted around, other traffic.

            Like all other pilots I talk to, I see only a fraction of the traffic about which I’m cautioned. Meaning, there are a lot more planes out there than what I think are out there using just the naked eye. Limiting use of safety services, such as flight following, would almost certainly lower safety standards and raise accident rates.

            Again, as Brian points out, fuel taxes are already generating that needed revenue.

  9. Dov Elyada says:

    An acquaintance of mine, a flyer of the Frequent Flyer type, has put it this way: “The older the boy the pricier the toy.”

  10. Benjamin says:

    I generally concur with Matt on two main points:
    1) Correlation does not equal causation. To borrow from the Daily Show piece, the original analysis here is either evil or stupid. Evil if it is trying to convince the private pilot fleet to stand up for and behind business aviation. Stupid if it does not appeciate the difference between correlation and causality. I suppose african countries should attain space programs as countries with rocket ships have better economic development. Man I am smart.
    2) Sustainability. It does not matter how good something is if it is not sustainable. Our AOPA and EAA loobying efforts and grassroots activities do not lend to a future of small airport aviation as we currently enjoy it.

    Bottom line we smaller airplane people need to make aviation more affordable to the average household who, voodoo economic Harley owners notwithstanding, need to have an opportunity for a piece of the pie that they are supporting. How? Start with tort reform and allowing for the recertification of aircraft in line with the Canadian ‘owner maintained’ model. But don’t let the million dollar plane crowd take over EAA or AOPA.

  11. Kayak Jack says:

    Benjamin sez, “Bottom line we smaller airplane people need to make aviation more affordable to the average household who need to have an opportunity for a piece of the pie that they are supporting. How? Start with tort reform

    I strongly agree here. This single – though not simple – step would cure many other maladies in America too.

  12. Gordon says:

    I agree with both Matt and Benjamin…

    Nobody can deny that aviation is a very important tool for any kind of organization…either private or public…just like air transportation in general is very important to the wider economy…

    But Matt makes a very good point that the NBAA is a political organization whose focus is on political lobbying…that is all well and good…but then they want to throw an arm around us…hey little brother…just to get us on their side in their political fight…

    No thanks…the little guy flying his Cub or homebuilt airplane has his own set of challenges…the most important of which is the high cost of airplane ownership…as Benjamin pointed out…why doesn’t the NBAA help us out on that front…?

    When I was growing up in the 1970s…my dad was able to to buy a brand new 185 on floats…on a pharmacist’s salary…today that is a pipe dream because even a Skyhawk costs over $300,000…In fact even an LSA is farther out of reach for the average flyer than that amphib Skywagon was back in the ’70s…and that’s for a bona fide bush plane with real utility and capability to go just about anywhere and take a whole family and their gear…

    So no…I don’t care about NBAA’s agenda nor do I want to get behind them…in fact I see some comments here that are buying the baloney that NBAA is selling…like the problem is “regulation…”…’s not….when it comes to the slow extinction of the small airplane industry…the problem is not regulation but a business culture that sees no value in having ordinary people with their own small aircraft…none of the big manufacturers cares a whit about us…they care about making multimillion dollar bizjets because that’s where the money is…if they did want to make an affordable family plane like they did for decades earlier…what’s stopping them…?

    And we’re supposed to just cheerlead all that…well not for me thanks…

  13. I have no animus towards business aviation. Quite to the contrary. But their struggles are not my personal aviation struggles, and visa versa. Whether or not I can fly a beat-up rental PA-28 (can afford it, can find fuel for it, the airport has not been sold so that the land can be used for something else) is more or less completely unrelated to whether or not some guy is zooming around in his G650.

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