One spotlight at this year’s National Association of Television Producers and Executives (NATPE) annual convention focused on general aviation, both on and off the airwaves. The event, held late January in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, is a promotional extravaganza serving as a catalyst for the introduction and sale of popular programming to the television and cable networks.
During the four days of the show, attending NATPE members used an impressive lineup of business aircraft reminiscent, though on a smaller scale, of what can be expected at an NBAA convention. NATPE’s membership exceeds 50,000.
Unlike other conventions in New Orleans, with each NATPE gathering the unique tasks associated with accommodating the celebrities that accompany these program producers are entertainment unto themselves.
Fortunately, when it comes to accommodating demanding clientele, the FBOs at New Orleans Lakefront (NEW) and Armstrong International (MSY) Airports have well seasoned and experienced staff. According to Addie Fanguy, general manager of Million Air NEW, since New Orleans is a regular host city for NBAA Conventions, Super Bowls (a total of nine for New Orleans, more NFL championships than any other city) and, of course, Mardi Gras, even the larger conventions are “moving at a more relaxed pace.”
As the inbound Hollywood entourage began arriving on January 20, the ramps of both airports were busy catering to the onslaught of business jets. The aircraft of the larger entertainment companies attending the convention such as Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers, NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS were also on hand.
Security at the city’s FBOs was naturally at a higher level, though admittedly a few steps shy of that at Super Bowl XXXVI, which New Orleans hosted in February last year.
Flight crews that spoke to AIN preferred being interviewed in anonymity, citing security obligations. The captain of a Challenger 601 delivering his passengers to Million Air NEW during the event said, “When it comes to flying this clientele around, security has always been first on a crewmember’s mind. Monitoring and being uncompromising with all access and surroundings has been a standard for transporting these customers since long before 9/11. It’s just that before you were more concerned with the overly aggressive autograph seekers interfering with your operation.”
A Gulfstream IV captain visiting General Aviation Corporation at MSY noted that the last time he flew into New Orleans he had to patiently wait his turn inbound and outbound. “And I was most impressed by last year’s welcoming committee–a group of F-15s armed to the teeth!” The occasion was the restricted airspace over the Louisiana Superdome for Super Bowl XXXVI. He was sorry to see the greeting for this year’s NATPE convention attendees was less climactic, but fully expected the F-15s would be on the job at his next destination–San Diego and Super Bowl XXXVII, which took place a week after the television convention.
As the convention business goes, the crescent city of New Orleans plays host to some of the nation’s most energized thrillers. The NATPE convention was no exception. And the organization appears to have afforded aviation-related programming a unique opportunity.
The membership has slowly nurtured a less than obvious bond to corporate and general aviation, both in its dependency for transportation and as a source of original programming.