“To compete with Goliath, David used a slingshot. I rely on a business airplane.” – Brad Pierce
I’m currently participating in the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) No Plane No Gain advertising campaign. It’s truly been an honor to be included in this fantastic initiative which highlights the vital role business aviation plays everyday across our great nation. The advertising campaign features well known individuals such as Warren Buffet, Arnold Palmer, and Neil Armstrong, along with several regular everyday folks like myself who use business aviation effectively in our businesses.
While I run a small business based in Orlando, Florida, my customers are located throughout the country. At a time when e-mail, instant messaging, and video chats have become the norm, it’s more important than ever that I meet with my customers face-to-face. The value of a firm handshake and being able to look valued customers and vendor partners in the eye has never been greater than now. There is no substitute when you care about your customers and want to give them the best service imaginable. In order to compete and succeed against larger competitors, we need to be laser-focused, nimble and seize opportunities without the typical delays and inefficiencies of commercial airline travel. The best tool in my arsenal for competing effectively is my Cirrus SR22 Turbo Aircraft. It allows us to quickly, safely and efficiently get more business done in less time and continually helps to grow my business. More business means more job creation, more growth for my employees, and the ability to deliver world class service to my customers. Business aviation works for my company, my employees and my customers. Business aviation works for America.
My testimony focused on the important role general aviation has played to help build my business, increase our sales despite a sluggish economy, and hire additional employees. I own and operate a Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft which I can honestly say is one of my absolute best employees. It allows myself and my staff members to travel quickly, safely and efficiently to customer locations, industry events and to manufacturing partner facilities. I’ve flown my Cirrus to 49 states in pursuit of new business and to nurture and grow existing relationships successfully. We simply could not do what we do without our airplane.
The current system of taxation is based upon fuel consumption, ie: each gallon of fuel purchased has a federal excise tax included, which congress has the ability to adjust if necessary. This is a straightforward taxation method (perhaps the most simple and effective in our government), wherein those who fly more tend to burn more fuel and therefore pay more taxes. I fly a lot, a whole lot. I fly far (nationwide), I burn a lot of fuel, and I pay a lot more taxes than an individual who’s making small regional flights burning less fuel. That makes sense – I’m going further distances and using more services, therefore I should be paying more into the system and am happy to do so. The system works, it’s not broken, so this feels very much like a solution looking for a problem to solve.
The Obama administration has proposed that each flight should be charged an additional $100 user fee on top of the current excise fuel tax. This makes no sense to me as there’s no direct correlation between usage and the proposed new taxation method. There’s been a position among some proponents that this is “fair” because everyone pays the same additional equal amount. Each aircraft paying an equal amount however is not “fair”. The aviation infrastructure was built for the commercial airlines, not for the general aviation sector. For instance, when I landed my Cirrus at Washington’s Dulles International Airport to attend this hearing, I landed on an 11,500 foot runway that was 150 feet wide and several feet deep of concrete. This runway wasn’t built for my Cirrus or many other general aviation planes, it was built to handle heavy airliners. I needed only a fraction of the available runway (length, width and depth) to land safely. Saying that the cost of that runway (that’s part of our aviation infrastructure) should be split “fairly” and “equally” between both of us would be like going out to dinner and ordering a salad while your friend gets a five course meal then suggests it’s “fair” and “equal” to split the check down the middle. It just doesn’t make sense.
In addition to the inequality I demonstrated above, another important factor to recognize is the massive infrastructure that would need to be put into place in the government to administer and collect from a user fee based system. We’d effectively create a whole new bureaucracy, aptly referred to by many in the aviation industry to be named the SKY-R-S. This new administration could raise fees (taxes) at any time without congressional approval which is a very dangerous proposition. Given the vast amount of resources and personnel needed for such a program, it’s highly probably an increase in fees would be necessary just to cover this additional overhead.
Equally troublesome is the thought of having to dedicate additional resources and manpower within my own small business for the accounting function of auditing, paying, and handling these fees. This money would add expense (beyond the flat $100 fee) to our operations which could better be spent growing our business and helping our customers grow their businesses. There is no need to add this additional burden to businesses who are already needing to be laser focused on efficiencies to compete effectively.
I invite you to watch the video presentation of the full hearing for a better understanding of this issue and all of the various points presented. I was truly honored to be among an esteemed panel of individuals, most notably Martha King of King Schools, who did a phenomenal job expressing her position on behalf of the NBAA. (As a side note, both John and Martha King are incredibly warm and wonderful people. I can’t express how much I enjoyed getting to know them and was honored to testify along with Martha). As you watch the video during the question and answer period, you may notice there was a brief tense moment between myself and the ranking Congresswoman on the committee. Due to the phrasing of her question, I simply could not allow myself to advocate writing a “blank check” proclaiming that we should should raise aviation taxes. I feel this is a more complex issue (including the numerous reasons I stated above) and that it’s necessary to look into the details and implications further. I was clear in my answer however that if congress votes to increase aviation taxes, I would prefer for it to be done in the form of the existing excise fuel tax method instead of by creating new user fees. While it was slightly uncomfortable to be in disagreement, I’m glad that I chose to stand up for my beliefs and not agree with a position I did not fully support.
I hope that each person reading this narrative will recognize that you too can make a difference when it comes to government and legislation. I’m a normal guy who operates a small business and uses a general aviation aircraft to grow my business. I’m not an aviation legend or a household name, but I stepped forward to support my beliefs and genuinely feel like I made a difference. I invite each of you to do the same, contact your Congressmen and Senators. Express your concern and let them hear your story of how aviation user fees will affect your business. Together, we can make a difference and get user fees off the table once and for good.
Lastly, I would like to give a very special thanks to the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Both of these organizations work diligently on behalf of the general aviation industry and do a phenominal job. I’ve gotten to know many of the staff members and leaders from both organizations and can adamantly say they are among the best, brightest and most dedicated people I’ve ever known. They care about all interests in general aviation, both big and small, and I’m honored to be a member of both organizations. I would also like to thank Congressman Sam Graves for initiating this hearing, along with the respected Congressional leaders who attended and participated in it. Their time and energy invested was greatly appreciated and I was honored to have the opportunity to speak before them regarding this important issue.
I’ve been asked to speak again at this year’s 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit which will be held October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California.
I’ll be a panelist on an educational seminar entitled “Light Business Airplane Conference: Mission Critical: Using Aviation to Grow Your Business”. This seminar is being presented as a collaboration between the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). It will be moderated by Mike Nichols who is the Vice President of Operations, Education, and Economics for NBAA.
The focus of this seminar pertains to using general aviation airplanes for your business needs. Myself and the other panelists will explain exactly how we’ve used our airplanes to grow our companies and enhance our lives. I can honestly say that our company wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our Turbo SR22 Cirrus Aircraft and the huge advantage it’s provided to us over our competition. Information presented will be packed with real world experience showing how using GA in your business is not only possible, but will be a game changer for your organization. There will also be plenty of time for Q&A to get answers from panelists and the NBAA regarding business aviation usage.
Mark your calender to spend October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California with myself and other aviation enthusiasts and professionals for a fantastic event you won’t want to miss. My particular panel session will be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM in the Mojave room at the convention center.
In March of 2011, the Department of Transportation made a shocking change which eliminated the Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. The BARR system enabled personal and corporate aircraft operators such as myself to block tracking of our aircraft so that they couldn’t be tracked by anonymous users with nothing more than a web browser. Once dismantled, competitors and random people online could see every move we made in our aircraft, the equivalent of allowing someone to go online and see the movements of every road you take and location you visit in your personal or company vehicle. Obviously, this not only caused quite a stir in the aviation industry, but also had much larger implications for society as a whole if this same principal of complete online visibility was applied in the future to other types of vehicles. Our basic right to privacy had been eliminated, but fortunately, there were numerous industry groups ready to battle this misguided move by our government. Among those groups were the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association), the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) and the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).
Throughout the course of the BARR fight, I spoke with numerous media outlets to help explain why this change was a poor decision and how it would affect small businesses such as my own. I was also in contact with numerous political leaders, urging them to work towards reversing this wrong that had been committed against so many people and businesses such as my own.
On November 17th of 2011, I got an early Christmas present when I received word that the BARR fight was over – WE WERE VICTORIOUS! I was absolutely thrilled to say the least. Congress stepped in and reinstated the BARR program which sent a clear message that the rights of privacy were still important to the American people and businesses.
I certainly very thankful and appreciative to each of the aviation industry organizations who worked so diligently to protect the rights of aircraft owners and operators everywhere. I’m also very appreciative of our elected leaders who did the right thing by ensuring the privacy of the citizens and businesses they represent remains protected.
After the victory was announced, I was honored to be interviewed for NBAA’s Flight Plan Podcast with host Pete Combs. You can read a full article, Congress Reinstates the BARR – What’s Next? by clicking here. At the bottom of the article there’s the full audio portion of the interview. I’ve also included a link directly to the audio interview here for your convenience.
Additionally, as a follow-up to this story, Pete Combs did another segment during his 2011 year in review series. You can read the full article, BARR Battle Figured Prominently for Industry in 2011 by clicking here. At the bottom of the article there’s the full audio portion of the interview. I’ve also included a link directly to the audio interview here for your convenience.
General aviation taxes. They’re collected each time I fly. From the moment I start the engine of my Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft until the moment the blades stop spinning, taxes are being collected via the use of an aviation fuel tax. If I fly a long trip where I’m likely going to be using more air traffic services, I burn more fuel, and therefore I pay more taxes. If I make a quick hop to see a customer closer to home, I’ll likely use less air traffic services, burn less fuel, and therefore I pay less. Simple. Effective. Proven. It’s perhaps the most brilliant fair tax in effect today by our federal government.
What disturbs me is the recent proposal by the Obama administration to implement a new type of user fee which would negatively affect the general aviation community. The proposal calls for a $100 fee to be paid for each business flight. That means whether I’m flying to Miami or Memphis, I’d pay the same fee. This simply makes no sense since there’s no correlation between my actual aircraft usage and the amount of revenue collected. To make matters even worse, a whole new bureaucracy would need to be created (and paid for) simply to collect these new “use taxes.” This is a bad solution to a problem that’s already been solved. The current system isn’t broken, so let’s quit trying to fix it.
Beyond the unfair nature of the proposed user fees, I think it’s also important to note the negative effect these fees will have on our economy. Take for instance my own company’s use of our general aviation aircraft. We use our Turbo Cirrus SR22 to visit customers throughout the country. It allows us to visit multiple customers in a single day, often turning three days of travel into one. We’re able to see more customers, make more sales, grow our business, hire more employees, and better serve our customers so they can grow their businesses. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved. Our Cirrus has allowed my small business to grow which has a positive effect on the economy. If these new user fees are enacted, it will mean a substantial increase in costs to our company. This will stifle our growth, thereby stifling our contribution to our community and to the economy. Our company isn’t unique, there are thousands of others just like us throughout the country who rely on general aviation which will be harmed by this proposal. This proposal is simply bad for general aviation, bad for business and bad for our economy.
I recently spoke with Pete Combs, host of the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Flight Plan Podcast series, to voice my concerns. He wrote a great article explaining the numerous flaws of the new user fee proposal, along with an audio interview which includes excerpts from our conversation.
I recently had the privilege of flying with Pete Combs who creates the Flight Plan Podcast series for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). As we cruised several thousand feet above the mountains in Northern Georgia, he conducted an airborne interview regarding my thoughts on a recent study about CEO’s who are also pilots. The study itself was very interesting, indicating that CEO’s who are pilots take more risks in business, and often times have more success because of their higher risk tolerance. While I agree with the premise of the conclusion, I think there may be one additional element that leads to this success. Sure, pilots inherently take more risks than others, but they also tend to be masters of risk management. This risk management begins with a thorough pre-flight, continues with completing checklists before the engine is even started, and is present during every single phase of the flight itself. There’s a constant thought process of, “what am I going to do if xyz occurs.” This thought process concerning risk management occurs in the very same manner with business operations I encounter daily. I’m apt to take calculated risks to grow my business, yet at the same time in the back of my mind I’ve got a plan B, plan C, and in many cases even a plan D for the worst case scenario. Therefore, I think that it’s more than just a higher risk tolerance that makes CEO’s who are pilots more successful, but rather a higher degree of risk management ability as well which is reinforced every time a CEO steps into the cockpit or the boardroom.
You can read a full article, Does Being a Pilot Make You a Better CEO? by clicking here. At the bottom of the article there’s the full audio portion of the interview. I’ve also included a link directly to the audio interview here for your convenience.
The aviation trade show season is upon us and the I hope that you’ll plan on joining me at two great aviation events which are happening soon.
The first is the 2011 AOPA (Airplane Owners & Pilots Association) Aviation Summit which is being held in Hartford, Connecticut from September 22nd-24th. I’ll be speaking at this event regarding utilizing general aviation aircraft for business purposes. You can find out more information and register this event by visiting: http://www.aopa.org/summit/
The next event is the 2011 NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) 64th Annual Meeting & Convention which is being held in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada from October 10th-12th. I’m an avid fan of the great work the folks at the NBAA do each day to promote the use of general aviation and know this will be a fantastic event. You can find out more information and register for this event by visiting: http://www.nbaa.org/events/amc/2011/
I’ll see you soon at both of these not-to-be-missed aviation events in Hartford and Las Vegas!
I recently had the honor of being featured in the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Insider Magazine. This story illustrates my use of our company’s Cirrus SR22 Turbo aircraft to reach out to our customers and provide world class service at a moments notice. At a time when many businesses are sitting on the porch waiting for business to improve, we’re actually making it happen by visiting and connecting with our customers. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love technology – yet, I’m also a very firm believer that there’s no amount of technology that can replace the value of a face-to-face meeting. Personal relationships are paramount to our success and our business aircraft enables allows us to take those relationships to new heights time and time again.
Here’s a little “behind the scenes” look at what went into the making of this article: I met with a very talented individual named Dan Hubbard who conducted the interview for this story. Dan is NBAA’s Senior Vice President of Communications and does his job extremely well. He’s got the ability to ask thought provoking questions to elicit meaningful responses which truly get to the heart of the story. In a matter of minutes I felt like I was having a conversation about business aviation with an old friend instead of doing a magazine interview. The result speaks for itself as you read through how well the article turned out. Dan was accompanied by Morgan Anderson of Morgan Anderson Photography who took the phenomenal shots you’ll see in the article. Morgan estimated that he took over 1,000 shots over the course of an all day photo shoot. Morgan is one of the best in the business and clearly loves what he does. From the moment I met him until the time when we parted ways he constantly had multiple cameras snapping away amazing pictures. Just like Dan, I found Morgan to be very friendly and really enjoyed spending time with him. After a tour of our corporate headquarters in the morning, we headed over to Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Executive Airport. The great folks at Showalter were extremely gracious allowing us the use of a conference room facility as well as their front ramp for the photo shoot. Soon, we loaded up our bags and took off in the Cirrus headed to Atlanta together for a business meeting I needed to attend. This allowed me to demonstrate my real-world use of business aviation which allowed us to have a full productive day in Orlando and less than two hours later be all the way up in Atlanta headed to a business meeting. This type of productivity simply wouldn’t have been possible at any price without the use of a business aircraft. While this article is unique, the story of our use of business aviation aircraft isn’t. Each and every week we use our aircraft to reach out and get more business done. The destinations change, but the end result is the same – business aviation simply works for growing a successful business.
I hope that you enjoy reading the article as much as I enjoyed participating in the creation of it. Again, a special thanks to NBAA, Dan Hubbard, Morgan Anderson, and all of the great staff at Showalter Flying Service for making this article a reality.