Home' Australian Aviation Magazine : November 2009 Contents 26
NOVEMBER 2009 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
referred to as the TARP money -- I believe
it was well over 60 per cent of companies
who received the money had business jets
and that scared me to death."
But manufacturers like Cessna had their
own advocates in Congress and their own
powerful message to sell -- jobs.
"My neighbour in Wichita, Kansas, is a
doctor, he lives a good life and he makes
a nice living, but he is never going to ride
in, be involved with or have any sympa-
thy towards people in business aviation,"
said Pelton. "So I can't convince him that
a Citation X is something he ought to be
out there supporting, but when I talk to
him about the economic impact and the
fact that people in our neighbourhood
work at Cessna and if they lose their
jobs their house values go down and his
house value goes down -- now he becomes
engaged and aware that this is something
that I need to support."
So Cessna and its Kansas neighbour
Hawker Beechcraft were able to rely upon
their own congressional allies, who were
able to advocate for the 40,000+ people
directly employed by GA in that state, and
the Frank business aviation ban was soon
dropped before it could become law.
" ere is a lot of misrepresentation of
the fact that 85 per cent of business jet
use is done by mid level managers," Pelton
said. " ese airplanes are full, they are not
the corporate barge with just the CEO on
board going places, and we got caught not
having people properly advised."
" e private aircraft industry is an
important industry in America, and it plays
a necessary role with businesses in certain
areas of the country," Frank told CNN in a
statement after his provision was dropped.
But it was a torrid time for business
aviation, with its reputation potentially
irreparably cruelled. "When you're scram-
bling to try and turn around a perception,
sometimes it can't be done," Pelton said.
at PR disaster and deepening recession
meant Cessna endured a bad January and
February, which Pelton nominates as the
depths of the crisis for his company, with
its full impact felt by the Cessna workforce.
In several rounds of job cuts beginning
late last year Cessna has had to shed 50 per
cent of its staff.
" e message to the employees and the
message to the people in the community is
the business has dramatically changed. We
explored every other alternative, could we
use other methods to maintain our employ-
ment. But when your production volume is
down that low, I have to size the company
around the production line. I can't just
have additional people with no work, it just
"So from a business leader perspective
you have to say, 'am I doing what's best for
those remaining to make sure they have a
viable company to be part of that will make
it through this?'. And you look at some of
our competitors ... a lot of people might
bring into question about whether they will
survive and we feel very good about our po-
sition and we will survive and we will be as
strong as we have always been, we're doing
all the right things for that," Pelton said,
noting that Cessna has remained profitable
through the crisis.
"But when you live and work and play
in the same areas it's tough to know you're
seeing friends at the hardware store or the
supermarket who are no longer employed
and it's no fault of theirs, they've done a
great job for Cessna."
Continued Pelton, "under the circum-
stances they're all so mad at the govern-
ment, the President, the auto manufacturers
about what they have done in this mess.
And we do have our own union, it's not
that we don't, but they're not saying the
company did me wrong, they are saying
this industry is being absolutely crucified,
e great irony in that situation was that
the US government was able to bailout
GM to substantially protect the car manu-
facturer's workforce, but Cessna received no
(nor asked for) government assistance and
yet the Obama administration's negative
attitude to business aviation use had a big
impact on the fortunes of Cessna and other
Cessna's piston light aircraft business has
also suffered as a result of global recession,
but that sector was already hurting with the
fuel price spikes earlier in 2008, even before
the global financial crisis hit last year.
"It's been similar but it's also been dif-
ferent," Pelton said of the piston market.
"It actually started in early in 2008, we
started seeing it before the jet orders with
fuel prices going through the roof, which
became very problematic for owners."
Pelton said the market for training air-
craft is holding up, but for private aircraft
purchasers, "it's really discretionary income,
CASUALTY Pelton said the market for the Columbus "evaporated", but says "it will be back". (Cessna)
DISTRIBUTOR LIAISON During his visit to Australia Pelton spent time with Australian Cessna distributors
Aeromil and Airflite. Here he is pictured with Aeromil managing director Steve Padgett outside Aeromil's
Maroochydore facilities. (Paul Sadler)
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