General Aviation has been playing defense, but it’s time to put the offense on the field.
It seems that our industry of general aviation (everything that has to do with airplanes but the airlines) is constantly under attack from certain segments of the press, the airlines and politicians. Airlines don’t want general aviation to succeed because they see their most profitable customers running away in droves to find better solutions. One of those solutions is the use of private aircraft. Maybe the airlines should figure out how to take care of their customers instead of spending time trying to kill all the other alternatives.
The groups that represent us such as NBAA, NATA, GAMA and AOPA have done a good job defending the value of general aviation in this country and what our side of the industry of air travel represents in terms of jobs and productivity in the economy. With the exception of the No Plane No Gain Campaign, we have had to be on the defensive so far. Why? Because we didn’t have a means to get our message through on a day to day basis and we were at the mercy of the mainstream media.
It’s time we go on offense instead of hunkering down in the corner of the ring and waiting on the next punch. I believe we need to start throwing a few punches ourselves.
I find interesting a recent comment by Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of Mesa Air Group, in the September 17 USA Today article about federal funding for non-airline airports. Based on his history, his comment that ”congressmen are spending millions building runways at these little airports. That is just a complete waste of money,” seems a little hypocritical to me.
Mr. Ornstein has built one of the most financially successful regional airlines in the world. In the humble beginnings of Mesa Airlines, and for many years after, he took advantage of the government subsidy program called Essential Air Service (EAS), which is funded through the US Department of Transportation. In short, this program provides subsidies to airlines who fly into small airports that cannot support airline service on a purely free market basis. The same little airports that were once and may be again, the very ones he deems a “waste of money.”
Congress continues to fund EAS each year based on the logic that small communities need air service for economic development. If you are hours away from a large airport with commercial airline service, how are businesses going to get to your community to do business? It’s about jobs and economic development.
So when it is convenient for Mr. Ornstein, he has no problem taking advantage of government subsidy to grow his business but when it is not, he finds it a “complete waste of money.” He has a right to his opinion but it seems clear to me that his opinion is self-serving for his business and not based on the facts and the bigger picture. The facts demonstrate that both small and large airports benefit the economic development of the communities they serve. He should reflect a little on how he built his business and whether he was bringing value to those small communities across the western US when he served those EAS markets, all the while making a profit at the expense of those of us who pay our taxes.
I, for one, am glad he made a profit serving those communities; but, I am just getting a little tired of the hypocrisy of these airline guys.