Home' Asian Aviation : AAV July-August 2017 Contents VIEWPOINT
4 AsianAviation | July/August 2017
Lipstick on a pig?
IT WAS A RARE TREAT to hear a question posed at the recent Cor-
porate Jet Investor conference in Singapore in what I had previously
thought was uniquely American slang. The gentlemen who posed
the question, with a bit of a Scottish burr, was responding to the
topic of “does business aviation have an image problem?” He sort
of answered his own question by rhetorically asking, is the industry
worrying about something it cannot do anything about and is the
industry simply “putting lipstick on a pig” by trying to enhance the
image of business aviation as a driver of economic growth.
Amid much laughter, the question hung like a cloud over the
participants...does business aviation have an image problem and if
so, what can be done about it? Participants at the conference went
back and forth long into the cocktail hour that followed the session
discussing the pros and cons of dedicating funds to a communications
campaign akin to what the European Business Aviation Association
(EBAA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) had
The image problem facing the industry was thrown into perhaps
the most sharp relief when, in 2008 amid the global financial crisis,
executives from the Big Three automakers in the US flew to Wash-
ington, D.C., seeking money from Congress to bail out their industry.
This was their first mistake from a public relations perspective. Once
in Washington, they got slapped around fairly soundly by the public-
ity-hungry politicians — many of whom are themselves no strangers
to the comfort and efficiency of private airplanes — and the auto
executives as a result pledged to sell their corporate jets after eating
a rather large helping of humble pie. This was their second mistake
from a public relations perspective.
My colleagues in the PR field, I hope, will forgive me for giving
some free advice for which they charge big bucks, but as to the first
mistake, a really sharp PR exec would have told the auto officials
before they left not to fly on the company jet. Given the tenor of the
times in 2008, it was simply a stupid thing to do, no two ways about
it. They should have been better staffed. As to the second mistake,
that of caving in to hypocritical politicians who will bum a ride on
a private plane at the drop of a hat, I have a simple question — if
you’re not going to stand up for yourselves, why should anyone else
stand up for you? That applies to business aviation — if you won’t
defend your industry, why should anyone else?
Some organisations did stand up to be counted as the Great Re-
cession abated as illustrated by the “No Plane No Gain” campaign
developed by the NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers
Association (GAMA). The NBAA was fortunate enough, or smart
enough, to enlist people like golf legend Arnold Palmer, who spoke
to the NBAA’s 2009 convention in Orlando and said he felt “com-
pelled” to lend his voice to the campaign because he knew the value
of business airplanes to his golf game, his multiple businesses and
how important the industry is to the country as a whole.
Unfortunately for Asia, there is a decided lack of similar “leaders”
with the gumption to stand up and be counted. One participant at
the Corporate Jet Investor conference said he had talked to famed
Chinese businessman Jack Ma about being a public advocate for the
industry and Ma said he could not because he would be crucified
by the public, not just in China, but throughout Asia. Perhaps Jackie
Chan, who owns his own plane, would be a better choice.
Asia needs more people like Rockwell Collins’ former president
and CEO, Clayton Jones, who turned the tables in his congressional
testimony during the financial crisis when he was asked how he had
travelled to Washington. Jones stood up for the industry and said he
had flown on the company jet, which is why he was able in a single
day to attend a morning meeting in Florida; testify in Washington;
meet with financial firms in New York; and then return to company
headquarters in Iowa.
That’s the kind of attitude the industry needs in Asia. It’s more
important than ever that the industry starts to stand up for itself.
Asia is the world’s biggest continent and as anyone who reads the
Financial Times knows, the world of business has firmly set its eyes
on Asia. But the region lags in business aviation infrastructure and
planes to a startling extent. Asia, according to Asian Sky Group, has
only 1,155 business jets while the US has more than 13,000. But there
are more billionaires in China than in the US and those billionaire
investors will need to travel and they ’re not going to fly commercial.
In a perfect world we’d all fly on a G650ER — and some day pigs
Developers work to lighten
the load on pilots
Matt Driskill EDITOR
Guarding intellectual property
from state demands
LCC CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Does low-cost flying necessarily
mean low customer service?
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