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Wed, Feb 11, 2009

BizAv Fights Back: Cessna Launches Campaign To Counter 'Misinformation'

Manufacturer Demands Business Leaders Recognize Importance Of Jets

Regardless of how you feel about corporate America right now, in this age of federal (taxpayer-funded) bailouts and billions of dollars allocated for "stimulus" funding... more than a few in the aviation industry have been disgusted these past few months over how business aviation has been portrayed by lawmakers, pundits and the general media as a whole.

Cessna Aircraft Company -- which makes its bread-and-butter off sales of its popular Citation line of business jets -- thinks the industry has taken it on the chin for far too long. On Wednesday, the company announced a new marketing campaign to address what it says is "misinformation" on the business use of general aviation aircraft."

"We think it's time the other side of the story be told, and that support be given to those businesses with the good judgment and courage to use business aviation to not only help their businesses survive the current financial crisis, but more quickly forge a path toward an economic upturn," said Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack J. Pelton.

While one could argue business jets have never been lovingly embraced by the public at large, the image of 'corporate fatcats' traveling on lavish private aircraft became harder to combat last year when CEOs of the Detroit Three automakers opted to fly to Washington, DC to beg Congress for bailout funds to save their companies. Lawmakers quickly seized on the fact each had traveled to DC onboard his own corporate plane -- for the same meeting, and from the same airport -- to ask for a $25 billion loan.

Despite efforts by such entities as the National Business Aviation Association to downplay that PR misfire, companies responded to the public backlash against corporate jets by dumping their planes onto an already-glutted resale market, cancelling orders for new planes and closing down corporate flight departments.

Lost in the resulting tumult was the fact executives use those aircraft as traveling offices, on which to conduct business in time that might otherwise be wasted thumbing through the SkyMall catalog on a commercial flight. (And nevermind the fact most of the same lawmakers who criticized those CEOs also travel on private jets... including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who commutes from her California home to DC on a government-supplied Boeing 757 -- Ed.)

Perhaps recognizing now isn't the time to attempt to change the public image of business aviation, Cessna's campaign (the first ad of which is displayed above) instead targets the executives who use corporate aircraft... in essence, telling them to stand firm against that public outcry.

"Today, we are demanding business leaders and managers work at their absolute peak to turn their companies, and our economy, around," Pelton said. "Business aviation provides the means to do just that. A business aircraft is a tool of industry, and one that should see its highest and best use during times of fiscal crisis. Anyone who has ever seen managers board a business aircraft at dawn and return well after dark, having visited multiple cities and attended countless meetings in one day can attest to the fact that business aviation allows companies to get the most out of every minute of every day -- exactly what is needed to work our way toward economic recovery.

"The reality of business aviation is a far cry from the misconception of CEOs flying in large luxurious airplanes," Pelton continued. "Most of these aircraft are fairly Spartan, designed for business, with a cabin about the size of a minivan or SUV interior."

Cessna's campaign will begin with advertisements with pro-business themes encouraging operators to keep flying business aircraft to demonstrate leadership in the face of economic challenge. The campaign, supported by a communications initiative, will celebrate the business person's vision and pursuit of opportunity served by the increased productivity and efficiency of business aviation.

"Importantly, general aviation's contribution to the American economy includes 1.2 million jobs in all 50 states," Pelton said. "These people produce, design, support, maintain, and/or service business aircraft either directly or through support operations at some 5,000 general aviation airports."

Pelton added general aviation contributes more than $150 billion annually to the US economy and is one of the few remaining industries that maintain a positive balance of trade with nearly 40 percent of the country's total 2007 production of $12 billion worth of aircraft exported.

FMI: www.cessnarise.com

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