I don’t think it’s the lack of economies of scale that killed light GA - despite the Popular Mechanics articles of the 50’s predicting otherwise, it was always a low volume boutique industry. Aviation was expensive in the 60’s and 70’s, but it was at least somewhat accessible. The real change since then has been the growing toxicity of the litigous environment here in the US, and more recently in Europe. The GA Revitalization Act of 1994 was supposed to provide some relief, but the damage had already been done. The world (and especially aviation) is now so drowned in liability and insurance structures that it’s far too expensive to design and certify new light GA airplanes unless you sell thousands upon thousands of units. Who has tried recently? Cirrus? Escaped bankruptcy by selling to China. Piper? Essentially went bankrupt, sold to the Sultan of Brunei, still not remotely profitable. Columbia? Almost bankrupt, bought out by Cessna, who it appears is slowly selling out to China. Eclipse? A complete disaster. After ten years and $10B spent, it had to be liquidated under Chapter 7 bankruptcy to erase all of the debt. Even after buying it for fractions of a penny on the dollar, the new owners still had to convince United Technologies to buy a huge chunk of the company before they could do anything at all with it. They still haven’t built an airplane since 2008. Diamond barely escaped bankruptcy after the Thielert fraud debacle by selling controlling ownership to an investment firm in Dubai, and they’re now profitable only because they have been extremely agile in a volatile market, and they’re subsidizing their GA habit by selling DA42s as UAVs to various governments, and they’re looking into funding the D-Jet program by selling a variant as a military jet trainer.
billfish678, Cessna already got bit once by “overseas” manufacturing. In 2006 they set up their first plant outside the US in Chihuahua, Mexico to build their carbon composite Cessna 400. Result? Pilots found their wings were falling apart. Nice.
Omar Little, many corporations knee-jerked after that whole automaker circus and dumped their airplanes like they were radioactive, losing tens of millions by unloading large assets onto an extremely depressed market. However, the people who had to fly to do business still had to get around - they just moved back into fractionals and charter. Nevermind the fact that it costs just as much or more than ownership on a per-hour basis - as long as there wasn’t a Big Evil Jet on the books, the shareholders and consumers were fat dumb and happy. The only real losers in that whole charade were the hundreds upon hundreds of pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and support staff who were kicked to the curb when all the business airplanes were parked and listed on the market. The politics and hypocracy of the whole thing make me want to puke. The members of Congress who raked those CEOs over the coals about their travel choices? They use business aircraft owned and operated by the USAF on the taxpayer’s dime every day. The talking heads on CNN and FOX news and MSNBC who crucified those “corporate fat cats flying on luxury jets?” Guess what, they fly on “luxury jets” too. You really think Matt Lauer schleps his crap through security and waits at the gate for an airliner? I don’t care that they all fly on private jets, in fact, I think it’s great. But to spew flaming rhetoric to an audience of hundreds of millions while taking part in the exact thing you’re whipping people into a frenzy about? Give me a break.
Here’s a thought experiment for you - let’s say you had a meeting to close a six billion dollar deal that would determine the fate of your 200,000 employees and the million plus family members who depend on them. You could either drive ten hours, or take the jet to get you there poste haste, so you can concentrate with your team on what the hell you’re doing. What would you do?
My whole point is that corporate aviation is not the antichrist that the media makes it out to be - it’s an easy target because it’s expensive, and it’s sensationalized because that’s what sells commercials. Yes, it’s expensive. But how else can a company get a team of eight middle managers to four meetings in four cities all in a single day? Or get a US based legal team to a morning meeting in London and an afternoon meeting in Moscow to close that big deal to keep your company running and your employees employed? Used properly, corporate aircraft are real life time machines. [/soapbox]