Aviation Industry Under Attack

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Wichita's business aviation industry is under attack on several fronts and now one company is fighting back. As the use of corporate jets comes under fire in Washington DC, Cessna Aircraft is out with a new campaign defending the industry. Cessna is hoping its new initiative will help change the minds of Americans' perceptions of private jets.

The business aircraft industry that employs so many in Wichita hasn't been able to catch a break lately. During Congressional hearings Wednesday on Capitol Hill, California Representative Brad Sherman questioned Wall Street CEO's about their corporate jets.

"I'd like you to provide a detailed statement about planes and perks," he said. "But for now I'd like you to raise your hands if your company currently owns or leases a private plane."

The only one not raising a hand is from Goldman Sachs, which is interesting considering its investment through G.S. Partners in Hawker Beechcraft locally.

"Gentlemen, we know that it is extremely expensive to operate these planes, that you could sell them and generate capital for your company and that capital could be used to repay taxpayers immediately."

Add this incident to the Detroit CEO's getting lambasted for flying corporate jets to Washington to ask for federal bailout money and many can understand why companies across the US and abroad are wondering about owning business aircraft.

"Business aviation has become kind of the whipping boy for the time being for those on Capitol Hill to shame the executives," says Brian Foley, aviation analyst with Brian Foley Associates.

This is why Cessna has launched an ad campaign to counter what the company calls misinformation.

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton says, "We think it's time the other side of the story be told. A business aircraft is a tool of the industry and one that should see its highest and best use during times of fiscal crisis."

Cessna's ads will target business newspapers, magazines and aviation trade publications. It won't get the thousands of laid off Wichita aviators back to work right away, but maybe it will remind some executives why they purchased planes in the first place.

"It's business aviation that makes those folks productive and allows them to travel to many cities in a day versus taking the airlines," says Pelton. "There are many benefits of business aviation that are just being overlooked."

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