Opinion: General aviation vital to a strong New Jersey
August 19, 2013
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  • My career in supply chain logistics now spans more than three decades; although much of my focus has been the wooden pallet, I am still surprised to meet people who know little about this very useful and ubiquitous device. A pallet is a wooden platform that is used to store and transport unit-loads of just about anything and everything, from food products to consumer goods to raw materials and even work in progress. It is no exaggeration to say that modern business logistics would not be the same without the pallet. It is as crucial to many businesses as a forklift or a computer, because it saves time and increases productivity.

    Similarly, most people know little about the benefits of owning and operating a small aircraft, which can also be a valuable business tool for a small company by increasing access to both customers and suppliers.

    My business takes me in many directions, but mostly in the eastern part of the country, and the small plane, which I pilot myself, allows me to reach multiple destinations in a single day. Whether it’s visiting with a supplier or meeting a new prospect, our small plane gets me exactly where I need to be, when I need to be there.

    For a company that prides itself on personal response and customer service, this is immensely important.

    My situation is not unique. Thousands of businesses of all sizes across the country rely on general aviation to increase their productivity. In fact, studies from NEXA Advisors have shown that businesses that use general aviation perform better than those that do not.

    Additionally, these small aircraft perform specialized functions that would not otherwise be possible or practical, such as maintaining power lines from the air, flying equipment to oil rigs or protecting agricultural crops.

    General aviation is a vital tool for many industries. In New Jersey, general aviation accounts for $1.7 billion per year in economic activity and supports more than 18,000 jobs. Across the country, the general aviation industry supports 1.2 million American jobs and has a total economic impact of $150 billion each year.

    But the benefits of general aviation go far beyond what can be expressed with numbers.

    Small aircraft play a vital role in ensuring public safety for local communities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, collection points around the state were set up by the Eastern Region Helicopter Association and other groups, aiding in the massive relief effort that helped to save lives and restore the New Jersey shore—an effort that is still ongoing. As a result of these efforts, helicopters and small aircraft were able to do their part to ensure that food, water and other critical supplies were flown in as needed to New Jersey and other affected areas.

    It’s a fact that the versatility of general aviation makes it a tremendous resource in natural disasters of all kinds. That means that local airports can be used as a base of operations and staging area for distributing emergency supplies, aiding firefighting, or delivering blood, organs or personnel. In addition, law enforcement, first responders, search and rescue teams and many others use general aviation on a daily basis to better serve their communities.

    It is for all these reasons that we can be especially grateful for the efforts of Gov. Chris Christie and other public leaders in the General Aviation Caucus, such as Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Rush Holt, Bill Pascrell or the late Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, who have recognized the vital importance of general aviation and small airports to our local communities. To this end, Gov. Christie recently declared May General Aviation Appreciation Month in New Jersey, publicly highlighting general aviation’s benefits.

    However, we still face many challenges at the federal level, with proposals of new taxes and changes to the depreciation schedule, either of which would be detrimental to general aviation.

    By working together to better communicate the critical importance of this form of transportation, we can take measures that strengthen our economic future, not put it at risk.

    Don Baldwin is a managing partner at General Pallet, a board member of the New Jersey Aviation Association and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.