NBAA Convention: Industry revs up for the big show

 - September 12, 2006, 11:07 AM

Unlike last year’s NBAA Convention, which was hastily transplanted from New Orleans to Orlando in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, next month’s 59th annual NBAA gathering is back again in Orlando–but with plenty of time for planning this year.

Not that last year’s switch hurt the bottom line. The show tallied 28,796 attendees and attracted a record 1,142 exhibitors. In addition, 110 airplanes were nestled in the static display at Orlando Executive Airport (ORL).

NBAA termed last year’s gathering a tremendous success, and with business aviation in the middle of an economic and delivery boom, it is not unreasonable to assume that many if not all of last year’s figures will be surpassed at this year’s event. Early last month, the association was anticipating more than 1,100 exhibits in the cavernous Orange County Convention Center and more than 110 aircraft parked at Showalter Flying Service at ORL. The exhibits will open daily at 10 a.m.; the static display will open at 9 a.m.

While the theme of the October 17 to 19 convention is “a year’s worth of business aviation in just three days,” a full range of activities actually kicks off on October 15 with the 10th annual Chairman’s Charity Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the event will go to NBAA charities, as will the proceeds from a silent and a live auction. Last year the beneficiaries were the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

As has become de rigueur in past years, before the official beginning of the show, NBAA will also launch a series of workshops–part of its Professional Development Program (PDP)–as well as the always well attended 15th annual Tax, Regulatory and Risk Management Conference. Both will kick off on October 15.

The tax conference is designed to provide flight department personnel and their advisors a basis for understanding how various tax laws and aviation regulations apply to business aircraft operations.

With changes from the IRS, FAA and DOT affecting many flight departments, charter operators and air charter brokers, flight department personnel, aircraft owners and operators, aviation professionals, CFOs, accountants, tax specialists, schedulers, dispatchers, lawyers and others who have an interest in aviation tax, operational and regulatory issues are encouraged to attend.

The PDP courses include an emergency response planning workshop and a flight operations manual workshop employing the International Standards-Business Aviation Operations (IS-BAO) program.

The emergency response course will help companies prepare for that worst-case scenario, including how to develop an effective response plan and provide tips for updating the plan at least every other year. Participants will learn the issues involved in aviation-related disasters, which can also be applied to non-aviation related events, including automobile accidents, fires or acts of violence.

The flight manual workshop will cover safety management systems, standard operating procedures, flight operations, training, administration/organization, maintenance and international standards.

Challenges Ahead

Conventioneers will arrive in (hopefully) sunny central Florida amid a period of record-breaking billing figures for general aviation aircraft. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reported that in the first half of this year, manufacturers shipped 1,843 GA airplanes, a 19.1-percent increase over the same period last year. Billings rose 34.9 percent to $8.8 billion, the highest recorded billings for the first half of a year in general aviation’s history.

The business aviation jet market paced the upward trend, with a 27.7-percent increase in shipments from 325 to 415 aircraft. But turboprops and piston-powered airplanes also recorded healthy increases over the same period last year. Considering manufacturers’ backlogs, GAMA is expecting the upward trend will continue through the remainder of the year.

Despite these soaring sales figures, there is bad news for business aviation. The industry will convene in Orlando facing serious challenges. While there have been battles about user fees in the past, never has business aviation been as prominent a target as it is now.

Earlier this year, the nation’s airlines took aim at business aviation operators when they launched the “Smart Skies” campaign, which would place a tax on the number of “departures” and “time in system” and give the airlines the most influence among ATC stakeholders.

The airlines argue they are paying 90 percent of the FAA’s costs while using airspace only 70 percent of the time. They further contend that business aviation does not pay its fair share.

To counter the threat of user fees levied specifically on business aviation, NBAA will encourage all convention attendees to stop by the “contact Congress” kiosk at the NBAA headquarters booth or in the registration area in the South Hall lobby to prepare letters to send to their senators and representatives.

In addition, Lisa Piccione, NBAA senior v-p of government affairs, and Doug Carr, v-p of safety and regulation, will hold a government affairs grassroots discussion on “The Inside Story on Regulations and Legislation” at 11 a.m. on October 18. They will talk about the legislative process and the importance of member involvement. Legislation currently before Congress and NBAA’s role in federal rulemaking initiatives also will be discussed.

Another challenge facing business aviation since 9/11 is the matter of security, terrorism and its effect on operations. On October 17 there will be a session on how security for business aviation has changed over the past year and what new issues require consideration.

Government and industry experts will share information about new regulatory mandates and provide updates on business aviation security programs, access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate.

Between October 15 and October 21 there will be no fewer than 75 workshops, conferences, maintenance and operations sessions, professional development
courses, aircraft-specific updates, technical briefings, panels and meetings.

The annual gala will be held in the International Ballroom of the Peabody Orlando on October 18, with entertainment provided by the Commodores, who have been a force in the music industry for three decades, and by Starship & Friends, featuring hits from the 1980s and 1990s.

At an awards luncheon on October 17, Archie Trammell, a radar specialist, aviation journalist and lifelong safety advocate, will receive the NBAA Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation; James Waugh of FlightSafety International will receive the John P. “Jack” Doswell Award.

The Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation is NBAA’s most distinguished honor, presented annually to an individual who, by virtue of a lifetime of personal dedication, has made significant, identifiable contributions that have materially
advanced aviation interests. The Doswell Award is granted for lifelong individual achievement on behalf of and in support of the aims, goals and objectives of business aviation.

Also at the luncheon, a number of NBAA member companies will be honored for safe flying.