Biz Jets Merely a Pawn in Wealth Wars

By Scott Spangler on November 6th, 2011

With her saucy style, Gail Collins is one of my favorite New York Times Op-Ed authors. This week she wrote about “The Best Perk in Politics.” Naturally, she’s talking about business jets and all the free rides Rick Perry took on them. After a fleeting aero-centric thought of how the industry would defend itself against the latest attack, I cogitated on conflict’s root causes and supporting players.

First, biz jets are a pawn in our political, social, and financial debates because they are an immediately understood symbol that separates those with the power and influence money buys from everyone else. Yes, as a member of the aviation clan I fully understand and support all the good business aviation provides, and the livelihoods it supports. But these boring realities are lost in the wordy gale of accusations and counter claims.

Collins succinctly described why biz jets are the ideal symbol in the wealth wars. “And you have to admit: private jets are the best. When you get to the airport, they’re waiting for you. You can keep your shoes on. Nobody tells you to turn off your Kindle until the plane has reached cruising altitude. It’s the one rich-person perk I truly, desperately envy.”

She and the millions of people subjected to the TSA security show who must also endure the airlines’ crass treatment and pocket-picking fees. A spurious question: Do rich and powerful airline execs have biz jets, or do they fly coach like their paying customers?

Still, being an envied yet despised symbol is not good for aviation and the people who make their livings from it. But, realistically, biz jets will forever be a symbol, a pawn in the wealth wars. As everyone knows, aerial corporate transport is but a tool, and how it is perceived depends on how their owners use them. Until this changes, business aviation will always be a topic for op-ed authors and others. –Scott Spangler

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6 Responses to “Biz Jets Merely a Pawn in Wealth Wars”

  1. Mark Jones Jr Says:

    The fact that “biz jets are merely a pawn” — we really have ourselves to blame.

    With some creativity, some storytelling, they could be heroes in a fantastic story!

  2. Rodney Hall Says:

    As a pawn why are Bizjets the target? what about all those government jets that are put at the whim of any senator or congressman that calls up? When was the last time you saw a congressman, senator, or presidential candidate standing in line waiting to take their shoes off and get probed by TSA. I find it hypocritical of them to criticize the use of the very aircraft they use on almost a daily basis. As a symbol of wealth and power it is very misleading though, generally the plane is not owned by the individual and is utilized across a wide spectrum of missions. You can’t really afford to just have one sit for the use of one person. Most of these planes are owned by the corporations (their stockholders you could say) and if not viable as a business tool would be eliminated eventually. That doesn’t even consider the various companies that lease jet time to people. I think in the future more and more people will choose to bypass the overbearing TSA and lease a charter if they can afford it. As usual the government is slowly killing this country one industry at a time.

  3. Robert Mark Says:

    The problem is always the same though Rodney. The White House doesn’t see aviation the way the rest of us do. To them, it’s a great target to convince the non-flyers of just how awful those money-grabbing CEOs really are … you know, the ones they want to pay more in taxes.

    While ‘ll leave the politics of this debate for another time, I think Scott’s piece emphasizes yet again that our education role is never going to end.

    NBAA, GAMA, AOPA, EAA … they can’t do it all. That means that every single one of us who believes in the value of airplanes of all shapes and sizes needs to step up and tell the story to anyone who asks … and even a few in politics who don’t.

  4. Jake Says:

    The question of “Do rich and powerful airline execs have biz jets, or do they fly coach like their paying customers?” brought a funny memory to mind.

    This last summer I was an intern at a museum that overlooks Boeing Field. The museum held the annual meeting of a large airline. All the execs were there and all the major stock holders. That day was the busiest day I had ever seen at the airport. Private jets, large and small, as well as high-end pistons, all flew in to the meeting. The taxiways were filled with aircraft. And as soon as the meeting was over, there was a 20 aircraft lineup to takeoff.

    It made me laugh, and realize that being an airline exec was probably a good way to go.

  5. MooneyMark Says:

    I’ve had the opportunity to fly in and out of Hailey, Idaho a few times during the “recession.” As much as I love aviation, I have to wonder just what kind of “business” is attached to all those kerosene burners on the ramp.

  6. allen morris Says:

    My 36 year career as a professional pilot took me from my F-4 Phantom to the Lerjet charter world in the 70s and I will briefly relate a scenario from that era. I had flown several flights between PBI (West Palm Beach) and (ICT) several times. A non-stop flight of 2:45. I was then sent to Wichita to pick up a Lear to bring it back to PBI. Thirteen hours and four flights later I arrived at ICT. The “private jet concept” became real clear to me.
    My book, The Rogue Aviator, covers my eight years flying the private jets and as I reflect back it causes me to yearn “taking the jet” and avoidance of the onerous throes of airport security and a cramped middle seat with a young child behind me screaming and kicking my seat. I am going to SFO next spring and unless I can sell enough books to afford to charter the jet I will probably drive the 2600 miles.

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