The eighth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, just finished and a resounding success it was on nearly all counts. Smiles were broad from most attending or exhibiting at Sebring 2012. The weather was the best ever with temperatures hitting 80° and every day sunny and pleasant.
We can look at several ways to measure the action at Sebring:
Metric #1 — Attendance set an opening day record on Thursday, Jan. 19, surprising many, though perhaps expectations were low after the last three years of economic sluggishness. According to airport manager Mike Willingham, an all-time Sebring LSA Expo record was set on Friday. Judging from the thick crowds clustered around nearly every booth and filling the walkways, that was easy to accept. Saturday was also excellent and by the end of the show Sebring reported 16,000 visitors.
Metric #2 — Sales were reported from many aircraft sellers. My informal, non-scientific survey revealed solid sales (money paid or contracts signed) at the show possibly hitting 20 airplanes. Even more surprising was the estimate of perhaps 50 sales generated at the event that should follow in the weeks ahead. By any benchmark this would be outstanding and I heard positive comments from so many that the potential sales results seem credible. Plenty of happy pilots are going to be racking up flight hours this season. Numerous non-airframe vendors also reported good sales with several saying, “best Sebring ever…sold out of product,” and similar comments.
Metric #3 — Demo operations were torrid with hundreds of demonstration flights given, plus airport operations were busy enough — over 220 in one intense hour, officials reported — to make Sebring the busiest airport in Florida and sufficient to challenge the Atlanta and Chicago airports. Visiting aircraft flew in by the hundreds and were parked in long lines on Sebring’s outlying runways and taxiways. In addition, the parking lots were loaded. Food vendors were so busy that getting a seat in the 300-seat main activities tent sponsored by AeroShell meant planning ahead or eating after others were done.
Congratulations to new director Jana Filip, airport manager Mike Willingham, and the whole Sebring team for taking over from much-appreciated founding chairman Bob Wood to continue the steady growth and development of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. After a sterling performance in 2012, Sebring is assured a prominent space in the aviation calendar and is certainly a positive and powerful way to start off the flying year.
For more information: ByDanJohnson.com
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