For many years, but especially since leaders of the big three U.S. automakers failed to defend their use of business jets while testifying before Congress, business aviation has been under attack by ill-informed politicians and the public. The No Plane No Gain joint advocacy campaign by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is designed to highlight the value of business aviation to citizens, companies and communities. Its goal is to inform and educate the public, government and the general media about the power of mobility and how business aviation is a multiplier of company resources and competitiveness.
Through the No Plane No Gain website, the current program provides examples of how NBAA members can answer and counteract mainstream media bias against general aviation, and specifically how to respond to stories and broadcasts that contain factual inaccuracies and untrue or misleading statements.
When news outlets, radio talk shows, Internet sites or television disseminate misstatements or mischaracterizations, the No Plane No Gain site has samples of effective yet tasteful letters to the editor, tips on responding to media interview requests and sample Op-Ed pieces to help correct the misinformation. The latter can be individualized with first-hand evidence of how business aviation serves valuable, practical purposes and helps a business become a more successful job provider and taxpayer.
AIN recently spoke with NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen and GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce to learn more about the origins, goals and successes of No Plane No Gain.
When was No Plane No Gain begun, and why?
Bolen: The original No Plane No Gain was established in 1993, with a narrow focus on investment analysts. They had a misunderstanding that business airplanes were not business tools. The program carried a message calibrated to the challenges of the time. Today we’re still saying No Plane No Gain. It’s a trusted industry moniker, but the program is far different than the original version.
It re-launched in February 2009 with a target audience of policy makers and opinion leaders, including mainstream media. At that point we set a goal to have business aviation perceived and understood as an essential mode of transportation. We want to make sure those passing laws and making public statements are well informed and don’t repeat mischaracterization of business aviation, caricatures in conflict with reality.
What brought about the latest iteration?
Bunce: In the fall of 2008, auto company executives were attacked for using business aviation when they were summoned to the Capitol. At that point we determined to shift emphasis to informing the public and policy makers. Ed and I got together and decided to use No Plane No Gain, that tried-and-true moniker, to go in a new direction, and it was revived quickly. In one sense this is a “grass top” effort, targeting federal, state and local policy makers. We’re having good success with that.
Currently, we send out weekly updates to decision-makers at all levels. We believe it is very effective, based on what we’ve heard coming out of Congress. Although many legislators are quick to demonize general aviation and business aviation users, we’ve also recently seen a lot of retractions and some moderation in media attitudes toward business aviation.
This version of No Plane No Gain is two-and-a-half years old. Is it working?
Bolen: There is tangible evidence that is working. Both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have created general aviation caucuses. These lawmakers have announced that they’re publicly supportive of this industry. They’ve become two of the largest caucuses in D.C.
Today, one of every four House members and one of every three Senators have publicly identified themselves as strong supporters of our industry. They obviously recognize the value of business aviation to their communities, their states and their country. We have seen that 30 governors have issued proclamations of the value of general aviation to their states. All these people have said, in effect, “Count me as one who recognizes this essential mode of transportation.”
Our four major message points are: business aviation creates jobs; business aviation allows economic development in communities with little or no airline service; business aviation allows companies to be productive and efficient; and business aviation facilitates our nation’s humanitarian efforts. We have lots of data that reinforce those message points.
No Plane No Gain is mutually supportive with the AOPA/NATA General Aviation Serves America, begun in April 2009. All work closely and collectively to educate legislators and policy makers. It’s important to understand that we want this to be more than a trade association campaign. We want it carried to the grass roots. We want individual members, the business airplane users, to be active in promoting that.
We are excited that a number of individuals have asked to use the No Plane No Gain logo on their websites and advertising. This all underscores that ours is a great, critical, important industry. It is literally getting the troops involved.
Is the campaign helping persuade companies not to keep their flight departments out of the limelight?
Bolen: It is. Why hide something that’s making you efficient and competitive? We do see some companies opening the doors and proudly discussing their airplanes. There are website programs, like those of John Deere and others, telling how they’re using their airplanes.
Bunce: A lot of companies that use business aviation are more comfortable now in talking about how they use their aircraft. Many were somewhat intimidated after the 2008 affair with the auto company executives. Now more are willing to speak out and publicize the positive aspects of their airplane operations.
Can No Plane No Gain moderate media sensationalizing of every civil aviation incident no matter how minor?
Bolen: Sensationalism in the media is a reality. I don’t think it’s going away. That often means they’re looking for the anomalies rather than the routine. We know that these airplanes are business tools, used effectively to make companies more competitive and successful, and that ours is the safest mode of transportation in the history of transportation. The media will look to sensationalize anything out of the ordinary pertaining to aviation, because it’s so rare it is news. They ought to at least know what the realities are. No Plane No Gain is providing tools to present those realities.