Cessna's Pelton: Shouting and Being Heard

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In the midst of one of the deepest economic downturns the GA industry has seen, Cessna's Jack Pelton says that perception as much as dismal market conditions threaten the industry's recovery. Speaking at the 51st Aircraft Electronics Association convention in Dallas Thursday, Pelton said Cessna has determined to take a leadership role in an unapologetic campaign to reestablish the legitimacy of GA as a critical business tool. "We've got to make it clear that it's OK to fly," Pelton told the opening session of AEA. Click here to listen to AVweb's podcast with Pelton.

Following what Pelton called "that fateful day" in Washington when the Big Three automakers arrived in bizjets to seek bailout money, Cessna has been planning an aggressive public relations effort that's evolved into what it calls its RISE campaign. The program includes sales efforts, an advertising campaign and a Web site, all intended to tell GA's story to the mainstream media and general public. Although Pelton said the public may never understand the detailed economic value of business aircraft, response to the RISE campaign has been impressive. Thus far more than 300 news stories have been published, all telling GA's story. "Sometimes," Pelton said, "you have to be shout to heard. This campaign gives us a strong voice, not for Cessna, but in defending the responsible use of business aircraft. And I assure we have been heard."

Pelton said Cessna has been flooded with response expressing support. "The metamorphosis from victim to leader was palpable," he said. Although many in the industry are gloomy about the Obama administration's seeming anti-aviation attitude, Pelton says victories are still possible. He cited the extension of the bonus depreciation tax for aircraft buyers that was included in the TARP rescue package last year. Going forward into 2009 and 2010, says Pelton, the largest regulatory challenge may be security-related. "There will be new regulations and we have to make sure they make sense for the way general aviation operations while providing real security benefits. Applying airline-type security to general aviation is a round peg in a square hole," Pelton said.