When Business Aviation Needed Arnold Palmer Most, He Stepped Up
September 27, 2016
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  • The aviation world this week offered up heartfelt remembrances of golfing legend Arnold Palmer.

    A pilot and private aircraft customer dating back decades, the four-time Masters Tournament champion also became an important voice in aviation.

    Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who passed away this week, is remembered by many in the business aviation community as an advocate who stepped up when called upon for an industry he believed in.

    Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who passed away this week, is remembered by many in the… more

    While his love of aviation and genuineness endeared him to many and forged long-lasting friendships with some of the best known names in the business and also brought him to Wichita on many occasions, his advocacy made him a hero to the industry as a whole.

    At no time was that advocacy more needed than in 2008, says Ed Bolen, president and CEO of National Business Aviation Association.

    The executives of the country’s largest automakers had just flown to Capitol Hill on their business jets to ask for a taxpayer bailout.

    The resulting rhetoric painted business jets as toys for the ultra rich.

    The industry was taking a public relations beating.

    What it needed, Bolen says, was someone to share what the industry felt was the true message about itself — that the aircraft are important business tools and a signature piece of equipment for a well-run company.

    But it couldn’t be just anyone, Bolen says.

    It had to be someone with a knowledgable voice, an authentic voice, a recognizable voice, a trusted voice.

    “In short, what we needed was Arnold Palmer,” Bolen says.

    Cessna chairman emeritus Russ Meyer says that Palmer, his long-time friend, was the first call he made in the wake of the automaker’s trip.

    And Palmer stepped up.

    He helped spearhead NBAA’s countering offense, including shooting this video the organization entitled “The Truth” as part of its “No Plane, No Gain” advocacy campaign.

    “The truth is,” Palmer said in the video, “is that for more than 50 years using business airplanes is the single-most productive thing I have done. It’s given me the opportunity to compete more effectively in golf and in business.”

    It was a message the sporting icon, who passed away Sunday at the age of 87, said he approved “simply because it is true.”

    With Palmer on board, Meyer says the campaign was able to attract other trusted voices to its cause, including astronaut Neil Armstrong and business magnate Warren Buffet.

    But it was Palmer who launched the effort, for which he was presented NBAA’s Meritorious Service Award in 2010.

    Bolen says there was already planned recognition for Palmer’s service to the industry at this year’s NBAA convention in early November.

    In the wake of his passing, the entire event will now be dedicated in his honor.

    It’s a gesture of respect for a man who was there for the industry when it needed him most.

    “He stepped forward and spoke the truth about business aviation,” Bolen says. “It broke through the clutter … and gave our great industry, and our positive message, a rallying point. What we saw on display was a leader with a reputation that had been built over decades, someone whose character and authenticity couldn’t be challenged. That made him the perfect person to stand up and speak out.”