Executive aviation is flying on a wing and a prayer these days - trying to keep its nose up in a bad downturn while waiting for a break in the clouds.
Better days may be on the horizon as companies realize the pluses of flying their own planes in hard times. But a recovery will take time.
"Executive aviation's affected by all the nooks and crannies of the economy. As Wall Street and real estate recover, you'll see corresponding signs of recovery in business aviation," said James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association. NATA represents fixed-base operators, charter services and other nonairline firms at airports.
In the meantime, the recession's put the market on hold.
Aircraft brokers with big inventories find it tough to lease planes.
Once-hot sellers such as light jets are tanking; tight credit makes it hard to get financing for new planes.
"This is a very difficult market, especially when it comes to private jets," said David McCown, an executive with Air Partner. The London-based firm sells, leases and brokers planes to governments and rich clients.
Credit Suisse analyst Robert Springarn says in a report that business jet flights fell 28.5% in January from a year earlier as companies pared costs.
CEOs of the Big Three carmakers dropped a bomb of their own in November by flying to Washington aboard private jets to seek a bailout for their industry.
The public outcry that followed cast a pall on private jet use, making companies hesitant to lease or buy new planes.
National Business Aviation Association CEO Ed Bolen says the bad press unfairly smeared exec jets as baubles rather than essential transport.
"That's definitely not the reality," he said.
He says corporate jets continue to be workhorses of the business world.
He says this is especially true at a time when airlines are slashing flights.
"If you have to be in Tulsa and Shreveport and Buffalo in the same day, you can't do that with a car or a commercial airline," Bolen said. With corporate jets "you can do three meetings in one day rather than three meetings in three days."
Bolen cites industry figures that show 30 American towns have lost their airline connections since the recession began. He says an additional 70 have suffered big cuts in commercial carrier service.
An option? Executive jets.