Maligned Private Jets Make Comeback in Ad Campaign

Banks got lambasted for their corporate jets after receiving government funds. Congress and the public scourged auto executives for flying their private planes to Washington to beg for money.

Now Wichita, Kan.-based jet makers Cessna Aircraft Co. and Hawker Beechcraft Inc. are launching marketing campaigns to convince executives not to let their wings be clipped.

"Timidity didn't get you this far," the Cessna ad reads, adding that "true visionaries will continue to fly."

Support needs to be given to businesses that have the "good judgment and courage" to use corporate jets not only to survive the current economic downturn but to find ways to turn the economy around, Cessna Chief Executive Jack J. Pelton said.

"The reality of business aviation is a far cry from the misconception of CEOs flying in large luxurious airplanes," Pelton said in a statement. "Most of these aircraft are fairly Spartan, designed for business, with a cabin about the size of a minivan or SUV interior."

Cessna, a unit of Providence, R.I.-based Textron Inc., has said it will lay off 4,600 workers by the end of March — about 30 percent of its global work force of 15,000 people.

The company also said last week that it would chop some production employees' work weeks to just three or four days in an effort to cut costs.

It said the layoffs and other cost-cutting measures were needed because of the contracting economy, which is forcing customers to cancel or delay orders for new jets.

The ad campaign will address what Cessna calls "misinformation" about the business use of corporate aircraft. Most jet-riders are middle managers or technicians, it said, and 85 percent of corporate jets are used by small- or medium-sized businesses.

The campaign will publish ads in national business newspapers and magazines as well as aviation trade publications.

Separately on Wednesday, airplane maker Hawker Beechcraft Corp. announced an advertising campaign promoting the 8-seater King Air 350 as "the world's greenest and highly efficient aircraft."

The ad states that one of the Detroit CEOs would have saved about 220 gallons of fuel and thousands in operating costs if he had flown the King Air 350 to Washington instead of a Gulfstream jet, made by a unit of General Dynamics Corp.

Hawker Beechcraft also cut 2,300 jobs earlier this month, and said more layoffs would be coming. Almost 500 employees were laid off late last year.

In a letter to workers announcing the layoffs, CEO Jim Schuster said that "the media and some politicians have cast general aviation as a wasteful extravagance instead of a critical business tool and the source of millions of American jobs."

Aviation employs 1.2 million Americans, Cessna said in its release, and adds $150 billion to the economy every year.