Climbing. Fast. – a new front in the recognition battle


Winning public recognition for business aviation’s contribution to the economy, innovative technology and sustainability has long proved a hard battle. A battle of attrition and few famous victories commanding public acclaim. Last week, a new front opened in the fight to win that recognition from government, policy-makers, opinion-formers and the public. Introducing: Climbing. Fast.

This is an industry-wide campaign launched at NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas to promote business aviation’s mission to achieve net zero carbon emissions, its leadership on sustainability targets and wider contributions to society.

Think of it as a re-imagined No Plane No Gain initiative – but with many more founding members and a broader remit. The old campaign by NBAA and General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) sought to explain business aviation’s contribution to the economy and society. Now Climbing. Fast. delivers a new-century perspective on the old, old question: how can we help people better understand the sector’s full contribution.

Launching the campaign at the show, Ed Bolen, president and CEO, NBAA put the proposition neatly: “No Plane No Gain, has been around for a very long time. It is the foundation on which Climbing. Fast. will build,” he said. “It’s not just about the industry’s commitment to net zero contributions but it’s about who we are.”

Business aviation has long provided economic and employment opportunities, helped business of all sizes, connected communities, especially during and after Covid, and provided humanitarian aid in addition to setting and delivering measurable sustainability targets, said Bolen. “Our new, branded Climbing. Fast. initiative will take this message to policy-makers, opinion leaders and other key audiences, informing perceptions about the industry’s sustainability record and value.”

Pete Bunce, president and CEO, GAMA linked business aviation’s contribution to the economy with its role as a technology incubator for the wider aviation industry and its achievement in leading safety and sustainability standards.

“Our industry supports over 1.2 million total jobs and over $247bn in total economic output in the United States,” said Bunce. “When you look at our industry, Climbing. Fast. truly describes the work we have been doing to foster aviation’s sustainability and technology, advance safety, strengthen economic growth and provide valuable services to communities.”

For private aviation incubator, think fuel-saving winglets, global positioning systems, advanced composite materials. On sustainability, think the efficiency of modern engines, which deliver 30% improved fuel efficiency compared with previous generations of business aircraft. Think the white heat of new aircraft technology – electric aircraft, hybrid-electric and, eventually, hydrogen-powered aircraft. Then there’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which although growing from a tiny base, can cut carbon emissions by up to 100%.

But does the public care? Ill-formed criticism of business aviation has often travelled halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on (to quote that master wordsmith Sir Winston Churchill).

The Climbing. Fast. organisers have an answer. It urges the industry and particularly its supporters to, as Bolen said, “engage” with schools, policy-makers, opinion-formers and the public to put those message across. The campaign should have an army of ambassadors including Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA), International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and National Aircraft Finance Association (NAFA).

 This army of acronyms has numerous weapons of choice to win the battle for hearts and minds: digital advertising, multi-platform social media presence and a targeted media relations programme.

Brian Foley, founder of Brian Foley Associates (BRiFO) understands the pressure for action but has a doubt. “Our industry associations’ charter is to look after the interests of their constituents,” he told Corporate Jet Investor. “Lately the hot button topic has been bizav sustainability, which although only accounting for 0.04% of annual greenhouse emissions, gets outsized attention from activists due to getting them more press coverage than say, spray painting a bus.” Activists know that targeting business aviation won’t result in the same large public backlash such as blocking a motorway or freeway.

Faced with growing criticism, Climbing. Fast. provides a modern answer. “Our industry lobbyists have developed a campaign to provide an alibi to future criticism,” says Foley. 

And now for the doubt. “While I’m not sure who’ll still be around to check on the progress in 2050, we’ll at least have these talking points to hold us over until then,” he adds. 

Meanwhile, let’s hope that powerful advocates within the acronym army can accomplish what business aviation has often struggled to get: recognition from government and civil society for its many achievements. Engagement is the word. Here’s to being around in 2050 to judge the progress made.

Pictured are private jets on parade at the NBAA-BACE 2023 static display at Henderson Executive Airport.

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