GA Claws Back at Image of 'Flying Fat Cats'

Totally fair or not, for a newspaper reporter, the irony was just too juicy to resist. Big Three auto industry executives flying 'luxury jets' to Washington to plead for a taxpayer bailout. The story caused a national sensation and set packs of other reporters on the scent, hoping to share some of the glory of catching their own corporate fox in the henhouse. Unfortunately for anyone who flies airplanes-anyone-operating a business jet subsequently became not just a symbol of excess, but virtually a litmus test. If you operate a jet, no matter how appropriately, you are the worst form of corporate fat cat and ought to be publicly revealed and reviled. But there is evidence that the industry decision to push back against the tidal wave of public opinion is paying off. A story in USA Today quoted Hawker Beechcraft CEO Jim Schuster: "I'm not going to defend every company, or every CEO or every person out there and say that some of (their planes) haven't gotten too extravagant. You can debate the size and amenities. But that doesn't negate the basic economic premise of the value of business aircraft to many, many companies." The story also quoted NBAA figures: 85 percent of companies that use business aircraft aren't corporate giants; and 86 percent of those onboard those airplanes are nonexecutive employees. Schuster also told USA Today: "What makes a business competitive isn't necessarily squeezing every dime out of a transportation budget, but getting the most out of the people it employs."