Business Aviation Isn't Just a Privilege for the Rich
March 19, 2014
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  • According to recently released data from the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks fifth in the world in competitiveness due to factors such as stagnating wages, underinvestment in infrastructure and corporate tax rates.

    While many of leaders continue to extol the importance of remaining competitive, the truth is there is still a lot more to do to ensure U.S. companies can operate in an increasingly tough and global market. An immediate example of this would be to stop the political gamesmanship and mischaracterizations when it comes to business aviation, and give U.S. companies every tool in their arsenal to compete globally.

    For many companies, having a business aircraft means the ability to quickly fly non-stop to virtually any destination is the country or the world, reach multiple locations in much shorter periods of time and use the time in between productively. Even in the Internet age, face-to-face communication is still the most effective way to open markets and solidify business relationships. That is particularly true in certain emerging markets. And, by necessity, the airplane has become not only a flying office but also sleeping and eating quarters since employees are expected to arrive prepared to jump directly into meetings with their counterparts.

    As a result, for businesses, an aircraft is as much of a necessity as a computer. That’s why when a company buys its own aircraft, it depreciates in the same way as other comparable business investments, including cars, trucks, bulldozers and computers.

    Yet some in Washington are trying to score political points by characterizing business aviation as a convenience, or even a luxury, rather than a necessary tool for competitiveness. This has manifested in suggested changes to the depreciation schedule which would apply to the purchase of a business aircraft, as well as proposed new user fees on owners and operators of these aircraft. These new fees would decimate businesses, farms and charitable groups in mounds of useless bureaucracy and new taxes.

    These types of proposals are not only short-sighted, but they makes no sense. For example, changing the depreciation schedule for the purchase of a business aircraft would have a negative impact on capital investment and long-term economic growth. Not only that, our existing fuel tax system is simple, efficient and easy to use. That’s why mayors, governors, and members of Congress have spoken out against these proposals. And these aircraft support many critical services for rural communities — everything from the transport of medical personnel and supplies to law enforcement, disaster relief, flight training and agriculture.

    Our general aviation manufacturing industry is also responsible for 1.2 million jobs, more than $150 billion in economic impact and is one of the only manufacturing sectors that contributes positively to the balance of trade. Rather than engaging in political games that propagate misinformation about business aviation, let’s find solutions that encourage investment in American-made products, empower businesses to operate more productively and keep our companies as competitive as possible.

    Ed Bolen is CEO of the National Business Aviation Association.