Private Aviation versus Business Aviation–What is the Difference?

These are two terms that used interchangeably however they should not be.  While they look the same they are different.

Private Aviation is transporting passengers on private aircraft for either business or pleasure.  Generally, private aviation is a very broad reaching term.  Business aviation is much more narrowly defined.  It is using the same private aircraft but the flights and purpose are for business use.
This might sound like semantics to some, however it is an important distinction.   Why is it important?  The lack of distinguishing the two leads to the many erroneous comments by the press and politicians about ALL private aircraft.   It becomes guilt by association.
Lets take a couple of examples.  First, lets start with the President.  Air Force One is the most visible private aircraft in the world.  It can be used both for business and for personal flights.  A flight to meet a world leader to discuss an important trade agreement is a business trip.  A trip to South Florida to play golf with friends is a private aviation event.  Same plane, two different events.  (While there is an argument that can be made for security purposes and therefore even the golfing trip is business, the ultimate purpose is different.)
I own a small single engine Cirrus.  I use the plane for business use and for personal use.  You might see my plane on a ramp for a ballgame and assume wrongly that it was flown as a pseudo business trip.  But yet, not one dime of that trip is written off.  The same happens on larger planes with SIFL and entertainment tax rules. 
There are many companies that use the aircraft for only business use and do not allow any personal flights of any nature.  By tax code, those who do use some personal flying have to account for that in their taxes and if a public company, that must be reported as income on the SEC filings. 
Assuming that planes flown to special events are just for the rich and famous and they are getting subsidized on their taxes is not correct.  Sure there are some people who have made it to the big time and use their aircraft mainly for personal private aviation uses.  That is the beauty of America, that you can spend your money on things that make your life more convenient.  How their tax structure for the plane is handled is way different than how the masses are led to believe. 
So as an industry, we need to do more to help the masses understand that just because it looks the same, it is very different.  Perhaps we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that there is a mix, just like there is a mix for the President.

Mike McCracken
Hawkeye Aircraft Acquisitions
Office 727 796 0903
“Jets without Regrets”

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