After gathering two consecutive years in Orlando, generally regarded as the preeminent playground for families with children, NBAA returns this year to the unabashed adult playground that is Las Vegas for what promises to be a larger-than-life meeting and convention.
Consider this: the country may or may not be coming out of the most recent economic doldrums, depending on which financial gurus you choose to believe or which polls you track. It is a critical election year. Depending on where you reside or work, there is a virtually constant code orange or a code yellow security advisory. Las Vegas was or was not under surveillance by terrorists earlier this year.
Then there is NBAA itself, coming back to the often outrageous and always glitzy city with a new president and CEO after almost two years of uncertainty and turmoil, when many were questioning the organization’s leadership and vision. But the new boss of the association is certainly no stranger to NBAA conventions.
Ed Bolen, who takes over the NBAA helm on September 7, has shared the dais at previous conventions in his capacity as president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association to help deliver the annual state of the industry presentation at the NBAA/GAMA media kickoff breakfast.
NBAA has an amazing track record for its two previous conventions held in Las Vegas. Once some members of the old guard were persuaded that the city would not irreparably tarnish the association’s image, NBAA stuck its toe into the Las Vegas pools in 1995 and came away with a record-setter in attendance, exhibitors and booth spaces.
It followed that inaugural visit three years later with another gathering in Vegas, which set the current attendance record of 31,665. By comparison, last year’s convention in Orlando, easily the most upbeat in the past couple of years, attracted 28,574 industry representatives, business aircraft buyers, pilots and corporate officers who make the decisions about what to buy. Showing their wares last year were 1,068 exhibitors, a record.
Association Expects Upbeat Show
As of last month, NBAA was predicting that next month’s convention was on track to set some records of its own, and at mid-month, space at the static display on Henderson Executive Airport, about 11 miles south of Las Vegas, was nearing a sellout. Aircraft will be parked wingtip to wingtip on 5,000-foot Runway 17L/35R, which parallels 6,500-foot Runway 17R/35L. There were more than 850 exhibitors registered for indoor exhibit space.
How has Vegas changed? In addition to the never-ending hotel/motel/casino/shopping-center construction, visitors will notice a new monorail that is expected to ease the flow of convention delegates and other visitors along the Las Vegas Strip. It follows the east side of the Strip from the MGM Grand to Harrah’s/Imperial Palace, before swinging over to Paradise Road to the Las Vegas Convention Center and on to the Las Vegas Hilton and the Sahara.
As delegates from more than 7,300 NBAA member companies descend upon the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Hilton in the high desert country, billings for general aviation airplanes are on the rise. According to GAMA, billings were up 16.6 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year. Shipments, however, were down 1.7 percent.
“Strong deliveries in the business jet and turboprop markets drove the increase in billings,” said Bolen. “Although piston shipments saw a small dip in the second quarter, current production schedules and healthy sales volume across the board make us increasingly confident that 2004 will be an up year for all segments of the GA market.”
A driver in the business jet and turboprop shipments has been the bonus depreciation provision passed by Congress last year, and an extension of that is GAMA’s top legislative priority for this fall. Bills containing the provision have passed in both the House and Senate, but Congress took no action before leaving for the summer recess.
“The recovery is well under way and should continue for the balance of the year,” said Bolen, “but we still need to solidify the outlook for 2005 by extending bonus depreciation as soon as Congress reconvenes in September.”
The theme of this year’s NBAA 57th Annual Meeting and Convention, from October 12 to 14, is “Leading Business into the Next Century of Flight.” As with recent editions, the event actually begins two days before the announced opening with the eighth annual Chairman’s Charity Classic Golf Tournament at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort on October 10.
Proceeds this year will go to Angel Flight West, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based not-for-profit organization that serves the western U.S. by providing free, non-emergency air transportation in response to medical and other compelling human needs.
That same day, the tax committee of the NBAA will open the 13th annual Tax, Regulatory and Risk Management Conference (previously known as the NBAA Tax Conference) in the Las Vegas Hilton adjacent to the convention center. In addition, the risk-management working group will host “NBAA Insurance and Risk Management in Today’s Environment” on October 12 in the convention center.
The two-day tax seminar is designed to provide flight department personnel and their accountants/attorneys a basis for understanding how the appropriate tax laws and regulations apply to business aviation operations. The insurance and risk-management session will have a panel of insurance experts to discuss a variety of hot topics, including claims handling, war-risk insurance, the emerging very light jets (VLJs) and FBO ground handling.
A number of other workshops will further jump-start the convention on October 10. Included will be the first of two days for the emergency response planning workshop and the flight operations manual (IS-BAO) workshop, as well as one-day sessions on maintenance human factors for aviation technicians and another for managing and achieving service excellence in today’s business and general aviation environment.
From then on, approximately 75 informational sessions and pre- and post-convention seminars are scheduled in either the Las Vegas Hilton or the convention center. After the convention officially folds its tent, an all-day security training session on October 15 is assured of attracting a large attendance.
Based on the proof-of-concept security project developed in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), it is for operators who wish to document and promote a strong security culture within their organization as well as prepare their organization to capitalize on the benefits of the TSA access certificate (TSAAC) program as it expands.
Mindful of the fast approaching presidential election, the opening general session on October 12 will feature a political analyst to brief attendees on the effect of the election on the business aviation community.
Departing from past procedure, NBAA has renamed the Safety Awards Banquet the NBAA Gala and moved it from the traditional last night of the show to the evening of Wednesday, October 13. It will be held in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on the Strip, which has been designated the delegate hotel.
Entertainment will be provided by Kenny Loggins, who has sold more than 20 million albums in a career spanning more than 30 years. His performance will be followed by the Après Gala, which will feature a live band and dancing.
At the convention, astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Scott Crossfield will present the second annual Harry B. Combs Award to a recipient who will be announced this month by the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF). Through the Combs award, the NAHF annually presents $20,000 to an individual or group completing a project that advances the promotion or preservation of America’s air and space heritage, with special emphasis on the individual pioneers who defined America’s aerospace horizons.
At the Gala, NBAA board chairman Don Baldwin will present the NBAA Meritorious Service to Aviation Award to Stuart Matthews, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), and the NBAA John P. “Jack” Doswell Award to Allan Lane, former NBAA chairman and retired aviation manager and chief pilot for BP Amoco.
Since 1994, Matthews has been the president and CEO of the FSF, an international, not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is the advancement of air safety. In this position, he is responsible for the development and implementation of the organization’s worldwide activities.
As an industry spokesman on aviation safety matters, Matthews has served on numerous U.S. national and foreign government committees and has dealings with senior aviation executives and other industry officials around the world. He has given speeches worldwide on topics that include the prevention of ALAs, safety auditing standards, criminal investigation of aircraft accidents and risk and responsibility.
Lane served on the NBAA board of directors from 1989 to 2000 and was elected chairman from 1994 to 1996. During his tenure on the board, he contributed to the founding and success of several membership programs that promoted NBAA and business aviation in local communities nationwide.
As a director on the board, Lane had a leadership and visionary role in establishing NBAA’s regional representative program, development of local business aviation organizations and initiation of the Reachbac program. He was also a catalyst in creating Travel$ense, the association’s productivity-tracking software, and helped found the NBAA Chairman’s Charity Golf Classic.