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‘General’ Aviation

A new study shows the use of business jets and other small aircraft is more about companies trying to gain efficiency and improve the bottom line than about providing a luxurious perk to those at the top of the corporate ladder. The industry wants to dispel many misconceptions about how and why companies use general aviation.

(from Wired)

I’ve been a General Aviation pilot for over 20 years. I fly for enjoyment and occasionally to get from A to B. The focus of ‘Business Aviation” has been the jet – but the reality it that the small single and twin engine propellor aircraft are used by everything from the small construction company to major hydro and communication companies. Especially in British Columbia where driving distances are vast – travelling as ‘a crow flies’ takes a massive amount of time off getting somewhere. As the wired article points out only a small fraction of communities have scheduled air service. If you live in the lower Mainland, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince George you probably have some choices, less so for Prince Rupert, Smithers, Dawson Creek, and Cranbrook. If your in Nelson  or Quesnel you’ve got a significant drive head of you before you can even get to a scheduled air service.

Now there is no reason to expect that scheduled service can get everywhere. When you have to travel to some locations, costs are going to be high, including chartering a small aircraft if that is cheaper than a 12 to 16 hour drive.

General aviation has two challenges. The added security continues to put more and more restrictions on where you can fly and the amount of paperwork required. The latest example is the massive areas of the lower mainland which will be restricted during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The restrictions extend to include Naniamo, most of the Gulf Islands and into the northern San Juan Islands.

The second challenge is keeping small airports operating. There was the notable case of the City of Chicago bulldozing Meigs field . Small aviation fields are considered a nuisance, and when land values rise, pressure to ‘develop’ can be overwhelming.

Aviation, like boating, hiking, snowmobiling, gets you out to experience areas of our planet you may not get to any other way. Its not a charity, and no one should feel that GA pilots are hard done by, but it shouldn’t be considered a luxury pursuit for the idle rich.

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