What got us into this fine mess, anyway?

 - October 7, 2010, 5:09 AM

Here’s a short story that relates, I think, to the plight of the business jet.

Good friends of ours who run a small medical practice were lamenting the double blow their medical insurance company has dealt them. They rent a modest office in which he provides physical therapy for people in pain and recovering from injury or surgery, and she runs the office side of the enterprise. The income from the business keeps a roof in northern New Jersey over this typical middle-class family’s head, pays to put their daughter and son through good colleges and supports a modest but comfortable suburban lifestyle. Among those costs are the premiums for buying health insurance for the family. Unlike most earners, my friends see both sides of the equation in the medical insurance business because they derive their income from those same companies. This year, at a time when there has been no inflation to speak of, their medical insurance provider plundered both sides of the equation by raising their premium 29 percent, for an overall increase of 85 percent in the last four years; raising the amount the patient pays per visit by 400 or 500 percent; and reducing by 18 percent in that same four-year period the amount it pays them for providing medical service to patients. Some other companies have cut their reimbursement rate to medical providers by as much as 38 percent, my friends note.

According to the government’s online inflation calculator, what cost $1,000 in 2006 would cost $1062.80 in 2009. Conversely, if you were to buy the same products in 2009 and 2006, they would cost you $1,000 and $914.29 respectively. 

Here’s how this relates to business aviation. Along with all the other honest, hard-working people who have been hurt by unbridled greed and irresponsible risk-taking over the last few years, my friends feel preyed upon by big business. Squeezed by government (taxes) on the income side and thievery by bloodsucking corporations on both the income and expenditure side, they’ve about had it with the system as they see it.

A shimmering glass-tower corporate headquarters might look excessive, but it clearly serves the thousands of people who toil inside it, doing what they do to keep the company a going concern. A sales meeting in Tahiti might raise an eyebrow or two, but unfortunately there is no finer symbol of corporate wretched excess than the private jet, which is perceived as a perk for the fattest of cats, the robber of robbers. Business/corporate aviation’s penchant for stealth and secrecy, driven by the need to react swiftly and efficiently to opportunity and exemplified by NBAA’s Barr (block aircraft registration request) program, does nothing to ease the public perception that these are royal barges facilitating a sybaritic lifestyle for overindulgent executives who are clearly profiting excessively at our expense.

Yes, yes, we all know the company jet is an indispensable business tool, but just ask the Washington alphabet groups that go to bat for business aviation how tough a sell that has been since the Detroit Three each flew to Washington in their private jet to beg for taxpayer rescue dollars. Read the full story.