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"So let me get this straight," the wife says to her businessman husband as they pack his suitcase in their bedroom. `You, Jack and Charlie are gonna get up at 5 in the morning so you can fly to Memphis and wait an hour for a commuter flight?"

"Got it," said the husband, throwing clothes into the bag."Then you're going to rent a car, drive for two hours to get to your meeting? That's ridiculous. You'll be exhausted."

"You're telling me," he says.

"Well, couldn't you just . . . (the wife pauses in midsentence as the idea hits her) rent a plane?"

"You mean charter? Are you serious? Do you have any idea what that would cost?" he growls.

"No. Do you?" she says.

He stares at her, unable to answer.

The soap operatic scene fades to black as an unseen announcer says, "Fly Smarter. Think Charter. Call (800) I-CAN-FLY."

So begins the first salvo of a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that general aviation proponents hope will reawaken the traveling public's interest in learning to fly or renting airplanes.

After 10 years of plummeting plane sales, decreasing numbers of private pilots, sharp reductions in aviation fuel sales and a steady decline in the number of people using aircraft, many aviation-related businesses have been convinced to join forces to fight back.

Next month, the group, called the General Aviation Task Force, is launching what it estimates will be a $15 million, three-year nationwide campaign to promote the small-plane industry.

The GAME Plan - General Aviation Market Expansion Plan - advertising and public relations at the national and local levels that have two simple goals. Get more people to learn to fly and convince business travelers that chartering planes can save them time and money.

Some segments of the industry, particularly manufacturers, have paid for similar campaigns in the past, but those have been fragmented or considerably less than the task force plan, said Greg Praske of the National Air Transportation Association - the trade group that organized the task force.

Praske said the GAME Plan was trying to draw together businesses that have a stake in the $15 billion-year general aviation industry - from oil companies to plane makers to pilots - and ask for their financial support.

The motivation is simple.


"The industry is going down, and there is no indication it will turn around by natural causes," said Al Eidson, an Kansas City-area advertising executive hired by the National Air Transportation Association to organize the advertising and public relations campaign.

More than $3 million a year in pledges have been secured from a variety of companies.

As new-plane sales show no signs of increasing, company leaders are pondering whether they want to donate 0.1 percent of their sales money - the amount requested by the task force.

"I think the manufacturers are groping a bit to see how they can become part of this," said Beech Aircraft Corp. spokesman Drew Steketee.

Florida-based Piper Aircraft Corp., the fourth largest American small-plane maker, has agreed to contribute an estimated $200,000 a year for the GAME Plan.

"Something had to be done," said Piper spokesman Joe Ponte. "We think they're on the right track."

In past years, it was the manufacturers, usually acting without help from other facets of the industry, who sponsored aviation promotional campaigns aimed at getting people to learn to fly.

The most recent was a project in the early 1980s called "Contact!" sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturing Association.

The task force is set to begin its blitz in early October with advertisements in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today,, and television commercials on the Cable News Network.

The group's target audience is people 20 to 60 who earn an average of $50,000 a year.

Within this age and income group are large numbers of people who would learn to fly if they were shown how easy it can be, according to a GAME Plan market study. And this same group includes thousands of business travelers who have never given serious thought to renting an airplane rather than relying on airlines, according the study.