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Business Aircraft in the US

Threatened by taxation and congested airports, sales of business planes in the United States have taken a nose dive.

Tired of overcrowded airports, inconvenient flight schedules, airborne 'snacks' and a pilot who apologizes for air traffic delays? If so, Canadair, Marcel-Dassault, Learjet, Beech and British Aerospace (to name just a few), would like to hear from you. They all sell business aircraft, whether jet or prop, and sales could do with a boost.

'Business flying in the US traditionally has come in three flavors,'says airline economist Michael Friedman of consultants SH&E: "There's the owner-operator who's either in sales or consulting and needs the flexibility, there's the fat cat flying of senior corporate executives and finally there's what I call the plant-shuttle operation of a medium or large company which has regular flights between various locations."

But at least for the 'fat cats' times are changing. According to SH&E, the corporate fleets of USA Inc., have shrunk 20 percent since 1980, coincident with the rise in scheduled airline flying. Last year, 450 million passengers traversed the country, and according to James Burnley, US Secretary of Transportation, the number is expected to nearly double by the next year.

The strain on the current domestic infrastructure is already having an impact on private flying. Boston's Logan Airport, one of the busiest in the country, is planning to increase landing fees for smaller aircraft, much to the annoyance of the commuter airline and the corporate jet operator.

'If you picked up a Sunday newspaper and read a headline that said "Massachusetts says no more money for Boston roads, prohibitive tolls will eliminate most private autos and taxis", that would sound pretty implausable,' says Jonathan Howe, president of the US National (NBAA). 'Yet that is exactly the type of situation that we are presently facing with some of the proposals to limit access to the nation's busiest airports.'

Quite simply, America is running out of space for its growing air transport industry. But unlike Europe, which is beginning to demonstrate similar constraints, the US has run its passenger rail network into nearoblivion. For many, air travel is the only way of doing business.

'We need more airports,' says SH&E's Friedman, who's not particularly impressed with plans to build a new airport in Denver: 'So what do we do about New York and Los Angeles?' he inquires. 'It's not difficult to build a new airport if the space is available, but there's little left on the East and West Coast.'

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