General Aviation Industry Shows Signs of Rebound, Advocate Says
March 12, 2010
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  • By Allyson Bird

    A top national advocate for private jet service visited Charleston on Tuesday as one stop on a whirlwind tour of cities that would have taken considerably longer had he flown on commercial airliners.

    James Coyne, president of the Washington-based National Air Transportation Association, met with airport employees and local general aviation workers at Odyssey Aviation at Charleston International Airport.

    The so-called general aviation business continues to suffer from a lagging economy and its accompanying stigmas. Auto industry executives stepped off private jets before holding out their hands for federal bailout money in late 2008, effectively vilifying the industry.

    “We want to show everyone that private aviation is not just for the president,” Coyne said, pointing out that despite President Barack Obama’s hard stance on the auto executives, he uses Air Force One more than his predecessors.

    Coyne’s local visit marked one stop on 3,000 miles of travel in his private airplane. His organization represents aviation businesses, including companies that service private aircraft, such as Odyssey.

    Just back from a trade conference in Dallas, Coyne said general aviation is showing the first signs of rebounding in more than a year. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported that business-jet shipments fell nearly 34 percent between 2008 and 2009.

    “We have a very simple solution: to get more people flying out there,” Coyne said. “There’s nothing dumber than having a very valuable asset with incredible capabilities, to have it strapped down or sitting in a hangar.”

    Outside of the economic constraints, businesses cutting back on travel or worrying about the image conveyed by chartered planes, Coyne pointed out environmental concerns.

    Private aircraft could face huge taxes related to the relatively small percentage of carbon dioxide they emit. Private planes account for about one-fiftieth of carbon dioxide produces by aviation traffic, he said, which accounts for about one-tenth of all transportation-related carbon dioxide in the air.

    He said the Environmental Protection Agency also could crack down on the use of lead in jet fuel.

    “The American electorate is looking at things to raise taxes on and looking at things that don’t affect them,” he said.

    Ben Wells, general manager of Odyssey’s operations at Charleston International, said most people don’t realize how widely his business affects the local job market, giving work to everyone from fuel providers to limousine services to caterers.

    Wells said his business correlates with the Charleston tourism market and, this year, shows signs of improvement so far. “My concern is my guys,” Wells said. “I’ve never had to lay anyone off because of no business.”

    Date: 2010-03-10