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It’s Just Transportation

For Directors who may be constrained by the pejorative rhetoric of politicians concerning Business Aviation- consider the use of business aircraft by federal- state and local governments- advises Jack Olcott.

Jack Olcott   |   1st July 2012
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Jack Olcott Jack Olcott

Possibly the world’s most recognized advocate, if not expert on the value of Business Aviation,...
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It’s Just Transportation
For Directors who may be constrained by the pejorative rhetoric of politicians concerning Business Aviation- consider the use of business aircraft by federal- state and local governments- advises Jack Olcott.

A study conducted by Washington- DC-based Nexa Advisors entitled Government Use of Aircraft: A Taxpayer Value Perspective should dispel concerns Board Members might have that Business Aviation is off-limits when they are considering transportation policy. Distributed recently by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)- the report examines the use of over 2-000 non-military aircraft owned or leased by federal- state and local governments to transport civil servants and accomplish necessary services on behalf of taxpayers.

Bottom line: Business aircraft provide benefits to taxpayers that are unavailable from other forms of transportation such as automobiles- trains or scheduled airlines.

Researching a multitude of government and commercial databases as well as interviewing relevant organizations such as the National Association of State Aviation Officials- Nexi Advisors identified a large number of public sector agencies and departments that use business aircraft to accomplish official duties.

Nexi Advisors found that within the public sector- the drivers for using aircraft mirrored the reasons why companies in the private sector selected Business Aviation. In all cases the underlying need to be satisfied related to the transport of people- cargo- or specialized equipment needed for surveillance- security or environmental studies.

Consider President Obama’s use of government aircraft. Air Force One allows the U.S. President to be more effective than would be possible if he were restricted to fly via scheduled air carrier. Since the Boeing 747 that transports the President is indeed a flying command center—an airborne White House- so to speak—he and his staff are working on behalf of the nation and its taxpayers while traveling to engagements that range from official state functions to political campaigns (the President’s political party reimburses the government for use of the jumbo jet). Also- the Secret Service can provide a far higher level of security on Air Force One.

Such use by the U.S. President is identical in concept to the way businessmen and women use business aircraft. Business people- like the President- need to manage their time efficiently and effectively for the constituents they serve—shareholders in the case of corporations; citizens in the case of the U.S. President.

Business aircraft- like Air Force One- enable leaders and professionals to be productive while traveling. Security—be it industrial security or personal protection— is an issue for business as it is for government. Thus the drivers that lead the U.S. Government to own civil aircraft are identical to the factors that motivate companies to embrace Business Aviation. At the end of the day- it’s just transportation- albeit a unique form of transportation that is not provided by scheduled air carriers.

There are- however- several government applications that do not have a direct parallel in the private sector. Public-use aircraft (the official designation of aircraft owned by the government) are employed for supporting law enforcement- fighting forest fires- providing border patrol and adding to the surveillance and counterterrorism functions of the US government. Another application that is unique to the government is the transport of federal prisoners- of which 60 percent are moved via aircraft.

In total- there are 12 federal agencies that operate public-use aircraft- and their activities are overseen by the Government Services Administration (GSA). Not including the fighters- bombers and transports used by the military services- approximately 1-300 aircraft are included in the federal fleet; nearly 60 percent are fixed-wing airplanes and about 40 percent are helicopters.

State governments also are significant users of business aircraft. In fact- states have been employing business aircraft for decades- long before there was a Federal Aviation Administration or any established federal agency for aviation.

Several states have no scheduled airline service for intrastate travel; they must fly out of state in order to connect to a scheduled airline flight linking intrastate cities. As stated by an official from the Kentucky Department of Aviation- “A primary function of [our department] is to provide safe and cost effective in-state and out-of-state transportations to all state employees.” Local governments benefited from the access to business aircraft- especially helicopters used by police departments.

The Nexa Advisor report concludes that policy makers are well advised to recognize that dedicated use aircraft are valuable tools for serving taxpayers. That message aligns with the positive case for Business Aviation in the private sector. When operating a dedicated aircraft is the most efficient means of completing the task for which it is responsible- government as well as private industry demonstrates good governance by selecting Business Aviation.

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