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Business aviation - reality and perception; are they the same?
These are undoubtedly very difficult times for business aviation with activity levels across Europe down by over 20% compared with a year ago, and in some countries it is a lot worse than this.

These are undoubtedly very difficult times for business aviation with activity levels across Europe down by over 20% compared with a year ago, and in some countries it is a lot worse than this. Such a dramatic reduction is inevitably leading to redundancies and aircraft disposals, and hence to a rapid fall in asset values and high levels of 'for sale' inventory. But none of this changes the primary reason for business aviation. Indeed, the equally significant fall in airline traffic and consequent flight cancellations means that it is becoming ever more difficult to complete timely business deals at destinations away from the main line hubs, with many cities served less frequently than before, and some no longer served at all.

Numerous studies in Europe have shown that business aviation is primarily a business tool of Corporations and Governments, which represent some 80% of users. But somehow we have allowed the perception that we are all high net worth individuals "swanning about to holiday destinations and drinking champagne in the height of luxury few of us can even dream about". Perhaps it is our fault that numerous advertisements for business jets show pictures of luxurious interiors, filled champagne flutes and fancy cuisine. Yet this is not, and never has been, the bulk of the market. Indeed, challenge any one of us who routinely flies in smaller business aircraft with our business colleagues to look forward to the luxury of it all, when in reality we are fighting for foot room and sipping coffee.

What we do appreciate is the easy access at the local airport, the elimination of wasted time and the benefit of direct routes and short sectors, allowing more time to be devoted to actually getting business done. Not only that, we can do business on board with our colleagues and prepare for meetings. Furthermore, we are less tired on arrival having not had to battle traffic. When we fly business aircraft, we arrive at our meeting fully "booted and spurred" to do the deal.

Nor do we need to feel guilty about our impact on the environment. Despite being 8% of IFR traffic in Europe, because we have a very young fleet and fly to task and not to artificial schedules, we contribute less than 1% of aviation emissions (0.04% of all EU emissions). Moreover, we are flying to add value to our businesses and the European economy, the key tenet of sustainability, rather the tonne-kilometre measure currently so popular, but which fails to take account of gross value added.

In short, the time has come to stand up and be counted, and that is why we launched "Talking Points for Users and Owners"; distributed a new brochure, "Piloting the European Economy", to all MEPs and EC Officials; and have become involved both in online networking sites and in a press campaign setting out the true facts about BusAv, rather than the misconceptions sadly re-enforced by the insensitive use of business jets by the US carmakers last autumn. We're raising our voice on behalf of the entire sector, so please take a look at and take from it what you wish to defend your business.

The need for business aviation remains as strong as ever. That is why we have been the fastest growing segment in Europe in the last decade after low cost carriers. From the flat lows of the 1990s, business aviation has been growing at around 10% per year and the fleet is now 1,000 larger than it was in 2000. Whilst activity levels in 2008 were lower than 2007, they are still higher than 2006.

Tough times need tough responses.

Brian Humphries, EBAA president