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General aviation has an important role to play in the global economy, not just in the lives of the very rich and famous, says Marc Bailey, CEO of the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA)
I would like to change the way our activities in the commercial general aviation (GA) sector are perceived. You will notice I have not started by calling this sector ‘business aviation’, as that in itself has connotations, conjuring up the picture of a business jet and leading to the overriding picture of a private jet club.
I choose to use the term commercial GA because much of what our community does is not related to business jet activities. It is also important to understand how both EASA and the UK CAA are looking at GA. In both cases, the work focused on GA by EASA (the GA Road Map) and the newly formed CAA GA Unit is primarily in place to support non-commercial flights by non-complex aircraft. In other words, the leisure and recreation market.
Commercial GA is everything else that the schedule operators do not cover. Those commercial GA operations charge money for the service and deliver a profit depending on the nature of the enterprise. However, while an airline sells a ticket for a seat to a fixed destination, in commercial GA we sell an aircraft for the use of getting from point A to B to C as the user defines. The number of passengers carried does not materially impact that contract, so they are very different models. When you start to build a picture of the span of work commercial GA undertakes, it is very different from the popular perception.
So what is the popular perception in the eyes of government agencies, the media and the public? Well, in practice, if you scanned the popular press in the past few years you would see examples of business jets being used by the rich and famous, normally in a leisure activity. Very often there is the use of derogatory terms and the activity is painted in a negative way. When you look at the industry more closely, however, none of what we support in commercial GA is anything other than positive for the UK.
Consider the special operations activities commercial GA offers, such as search and rescue, survey work for gas, oil, fisheries, and medevac and air ambulance support – these are all important for the growth and wellbeing of a country. Even things like calibrating airfield landing systems or banner towing have their part to play.
Business jets are also used to support business activity. Whether those are corporate owned, with flight departments or providers offering managed services under an AOC, the prime purpose of this activity is to optimize time for the user and provide the agility to respond to changes. This customer value will without question help them to grow their business activities and as a consequence generate wealth for the UK and deliver employment, either directly or indirectly in many cases.
We are often cautious of promoting our services for high net worth individuals (HNWI), either for business or private leisure activities, at the risk of painting a negative image of the industry. However, what is often neglected is the value which HNWIs bring to an economy. WingX managing director Richard Koe recently provided some very illuminating information at EBACE showing exactly what an individual will bring financially, depending upon the origin of the individual. On average the disposable spend per HNWI across the world is circa US$848,000 per annum. Compare this to an average commercial passenger delivering US$35 per day/US$12,775 per annum.
Even more important is that HNWIs have not acquired their wealth by accident – the majority are business people and where they chose to invest is often dictated by the ease with which they can access and do business with a country.
The real point is that we should embrace every element of what we do and promote it accordingly. It is time for people to understand that everything in business aviation is focused on generating wealth and providing employment. We should do everything we can to encourage that activity to take place in our country. Commercial GA should not be seen as a ‘guilty pleasure’.
For more information on BBGA, including how to become a member, visit www.bbga.aero
August 19, 2015