By Russ Niles
While I’m not holding my breath, it would be nice to see the Obama administration eating a few of the words it’s used in recent months to describe the supposed excesses of business aircraft use.
I would lay a good portion of the horrible downturn the bizjet industry is suffering at the feet of gainsaying politicians who have scapegoated business aircraft travel as a way to show their empathy for the majority of constituents who will never set foot in one. We get it. They’re expensive, they’re luxurious, they’re exclusive and they’re a privilege denied all but the most successful of us, unless you count the cancer patients, Special Olympics athletes and others who are regularly given free rides as part of the community service that many, many bizjet owners willingly provide.
But I digress.
There are simply times when nothing but private air transportation will do. Just ask the federal government.
The State Department was in a pickle Monday when the iron gate of the North Korean regime cracked open wide enough to allow two American journalists to escape 12 years of hard labor for alleged spy activities.
The deal was brokered by former President Bill Clinton and required his personal attendance, not to mention a quick way to get the women out of North Korea and back to their families in California. Now, the State Department can whistle up just about any kind of airplane it wants from the military and federal inventory and the stable is big and varied.
But sending a government-owned plane, let alone a military aircraft, was out of the question because of the shaky relationship between the two countries and the peril of the two reporters.
So, when it weighed all the pros and cons and looked at all the options, it rented a business jet.
Clinton flew to North Korea on an Avjet Boeing Business Jet and came home with two U.S. citizens in a diplomatic coup that attracted worldwide attention. If there’s any justice at all, the government will acknowledge what business people all over the country have known for decades. When there’s a time sensitive mission that requires discretion and efficiency, there is simply nothing more effective than private business travel.
Now, the average bizjet mission doesn’t result in this kind of positive media glow because it happens in the regular course of business for thousands of American enterprises.
And while former Presidents saving fellow Americans from the pain of 12 years of hard labor makes compelling news, that’s about all that was different about it from the thousands of flights that occur daily throughout the world.
There are times when the speed, efficiency and even comfort of a business jet are vital tools in the successful completion of repairs, consultations or long, boring meetings that are essential to the continuation of the enterprises involved.
In a lot of cases, all of them mundane in comparison to Clinton’s dramatic flight, there is simply no substitute for business travel.
And if you don’t believe me, ask those two young women in California, basking in the relieved glow of their tearful reunion with family and friends, where they think they might be if the State Department had put Clinton on the next scheduled flight to North Korea with a couple of tickets for the journalists on the return trip.