The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention in Orlando Oct. 21-23 was termed a “massive success” by NBAA President Ed Bolen. Always is. Despite some down years, corporate aviation is booming (comparatively) and attention and spending follow the money. But there’s always more to NBAA than corporate jets.
The 26,000 attendees at NBAA 2014 were treated to 1,100 exhibitors in the cavernous Orlando Convention Center and some 100 aircraft at nearby Orlando Executive Airport. Inside the hall was a modest static display of light business, training and utility aircraft from Robinson helicopters to Husky bush planes to Pilatus and other single-engine turboprops, including Quest’s Caravan-like offering.
Even the Searey LSA seaplane was there, represented by new sales/marketing associate Kevin Oaks and CEO Adam Yang, who will be traveling to China soon to explore that market.
Appearing with a new name was the Discovery 201, the Russian-designed five-seat, IO-360-powered utility twin with rear clamshell doors. Certification efforts for the rugged $1 million offering continue, including work on 29-G seats. With 65 gallons of fuel on board, the company claims ranges out to 780 miles.
The unusual-looking 201 (whose big nacelles on a high-wing recall the old Aeronca Lancer twin trainer) appeared with the company’s recent acquisition, the former Liberty XL-2 two-seat trainer. Company headquarters has shifted from start-up offices in Sausalito, California, to former Liberty Aerospace production facilities in Melbourne, Florida.
There are always innovations and surprises at NBAA beyond the usual hype and expected new aircraft introductions, like the new G-500 and G-600 Gulfstreams announced just before NBAA.
Part of that big news was Pratt & Whitney Canada’s selection to hang its new PW-800 engines on these Gulfstreams, which since the first G-II have used nothing but Rolls-Royce power.
Cessna touted its Citation X+, reclaiming the title of world’s fastest business jet, and its new Longitude and Latitude bizjets.
I was hunting for New York-based ex-AOPA’er Jeff Miller, ex-Aerion and ex-Gulfstream PR man doing good work now for Dassault Falcon Jet and others. At NBAA, there he was back at Aerion, helping the Reno-based company promote new technology to enable a $100 million, 8- to 12-passenger Mach 1.6 supersonic business jet using supersonic natural laminar flow (SNLF) and aero-spike technology. Aerion just linked up with Airbus to support its quest for certification (including diminished-sonic boom cruise at Mach 1.4 over land) and series production by 2021.
And then there was PILOT MALL, aviation Internet retailer and first-time NBAA exhibitor, revealing another new product line following its Flight Training Cockpit products. This time it was aviation-theme electric vehicles for ramp, airport and airpark. Don’t think golf carts! For the corporate flight department or FBO, on offer was a high-capacity eight-passenger Hummer-style vehicle customizable in corporate livery.
For the aviation enthusiast, golfer or airpark resident, it was new four-seat electric roadsters — each an individual work of aviation art by Gary Velasco. On display were “Flying Tigers P-40” and “SR-71 Blackbird” designs by Velasco, author of “Fighting Colors” and authority on classic aircraft nose art and paint schemes.
Front and center (in fact, all over this year’s show) was NBAA’s new “Business Leaders on Business Aviation” campaign — CEO affirmations of General Aviation’s utility and value. Huge banners depicted leading business people and their thoughts on aviation’s value to company, community and commerce. A new booklet of this collected wisdom also debuted.
The work is reminiscent of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s “Who Flies” campaign of the early 1980s. It offered productivity examples and “Dewer’s Profiles” of successful business fliers in both booklet form and on the inside back page of many a magazine. The British GA manufacturers’ organization, GAMTA, later adapted the concept in its “Who’s Flying” effort. I was very proud of this campaign, “my baby” in my early GAMA days, and I hope NBAA does as well with theirs.
The corporate aviation world can use such cheerleading since the disastrous auto company CEO hearings on Capital Hill and now-customary linkage of corporate jets with uncaring, profligate greed and excess.
The next installment of NBAA’s celebration of business and its airplanes is slated for Nov. 17-19, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada.