When automotive industry leaders flew to Washington on private jets seeking a government bailout, it did more than create an image they were corporate fat cats. It hurt general aviation as well, industry officials say.
Most general aviation is not simply a luxury available only to the rich; it's a cost-effective way to do business and an economic lifeline for small communities, said speakers Thursday at the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit in Oklahoma City. But the industry has had to battle not only a variety of economic conditions but other perceptions as well. "We don't know why they took those planes that day. But we wish they would have said, 'Business aviation is important to our company. It's important to our survival and we need it,'” said Edward Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association. General aviation has suffered bad press, regulatory threats and economic distress in recent years, but is essential to economic development, said Victor Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. For example, the Michelin tire plant was located in Ardmore because executives could easily fly into a nearby airport.
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General aviation in Oklahoma
• Oklahoma has 141 public use airports serving 8,313 FAA-certified pilots in the state, along with 11,469 general aviation aircraft.
• General aviation contributes $1.2 billion annually to the state's economy. Source: Alliance for Aviation Across America