NBAA Preview

 - August 30, 2007, 6:39 AM

Get ready to light the candles, Atlanta: NBAA will be celebrating 60 years of annual meetings and conventions, as well as the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Georgia, when this year’s exhibition sets up in the Georgia World Congress Center and at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field from September 25 to 27.

Among the festivities slated for this 60th annual edition is a commemorative flight on September 22 from New York–the site of NBAA’s first convention in 1947–to Atlanta. Pilots representing business aviation’s past, present and future will be on board.

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen will be joined on the flight by Pat Epps, whose father, Ben Epps, built and piloted the first powered aircraft in Georgia 100 years ago, and Jamail Larkins, a Georgian who soloed in Canada at 14, earned his U.S. private pilot certificate at 17 and later become the first ambassador for aviation and space education for the FAA. Cessna Aircraft, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, will provide a new Citation Mustang for the trip.

Additionally, a replica of the monoplane built and flown by Ben Epps in 1907–an aircraft often recognized as a launching point for Georgia’s diverse and economically significant aerospace industry–will be on display from September 25 to 27 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

As in years past, the convention actually begins with the annual NBAA Chairman’s Charity Golf Tournament at Stone Mountain Golf Club in Stone Mountain, Ga., with proceeds to benefit NBAA Charities. This year’s event will take place on September 23.

A number of Professional Development Program workshops and other sessions also begin that day, including the ever popular two-day Tax, Regulatory and Risk Management Conference.

Also the same day, NBAA is giving something back to the local community by building an aviation-themed playground at an elementary school located near Fulton County Airport, and it is seeking help from early arrivals to Atlanta.

NBAA will arrive in Georgia with general aviation posting strong shipping and billing numbers for the first six months of this year. Shipments of GA airplanes totaled 1,883 units, a 1.7-percent increase over the same period last year, while industry billings rose 11.7 percent to $9.8 billion.

The business jet market segment led the way, growing by 14.7 percent, with an increase in shipments from 414 aircraft in the first half of 2006 to 475 aircraft in the first half of this year. Turboprop shipments rose 15.2 percent, from 158 aircraft in the first half of last year to 182 units in the same period this year. But shipments of piston-engine airplanes through the second quarter of this year were down 4.2 percent from the same period last year, sliding to 1,226 from 1,280.

Industry Strong, but FAA Funding Weighs Heavy
Despite those mostly encouraging figures, not everything is peachy in Georgia as NBAA marches through Atlanta with the world’s largest civil aviation trade show. General aviation–business aviation in particular–is under attack from the nation’s airlines over user fees, which many in the industry fear could cripple GA’s health and growth.

The Air Transport Association (ATA) and its member airlines have been painting corporate aviation as the culprit during the worst summer of congestion, delays and cancellations at the nation’s airports. They have also run anti-corporate aviation editorials in their in-flight magazines.

On August 14, however, NBC Nightly News aired a segment in which a reporter laid the blame for congestion at New York City’s three airports squarely on the airlines, citing a proliferation of flights by their regional jets. But he noted that the ATA continues to blame congestion on “too many private jets.”

Nevertheless, the health of business aviation remains strong. Last year, NBAA rose to eighth place in the rankings of the largest U.S. trade shows based on square footage occupied by exhibits, and as such has outgrown a couple of its former venues. By comparison, the 2005 annual meeting was in 37th place. It should be noted that that event was hastily put together in Orlando, Fla., after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

According to NBAA, last year’s convention–also in Orlando–was the biggest and best in the association’s history, breaking attendance records and selling out exhibit space earlier than ever before. At the close of the three-day event, the attendance total was 33,088, a 14-percent increase over the final total for 2005 and higher than the previous record of 31,665 set in Las Vegas in 1998. The static display at Orlando Executive Airport sold out, with 115 aircraft on display.

In another nod to the host state, NBAA will throw open the doors free of charge to college students and people in the local business aviation community as part of Georgia Aviation Day on September 27.

At the NBAA awards luncheon on September 25, the association will present its Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation to Bryan Moss, president emeritus of Gulfstream Aerospace, and its John P. “Jack” Doswell Award to Pat Epps, pilot and founder of Epps Aviation.

In addition, at the third annual live auction–which also will benefit NBAA charities–the night’s featured entertainment will be Huey Lewis and the News, known for their mid-1980s hits.

AIN Has All the News from NBAA: In Print, On Air and Online

All the latest news from the NBAA Convention will be available from AIN, as sister publication NBAA Convention News publishes three daily on-site issues (September 25 to 27). AINtv will be running daily broadcasts on AINtv.com, fresh online content will be posted at www.ainonline.com and AINalerts will publish a third weekly issue on Wednesday.

Exhibitors with news for the event should send information and pictures to shows@ainonline.com. News embargoes will be strictly honored.