The 2003 NBAA Convention celebrated the centennial of manned powered flight with some powerful and exotic hardware, including three new derivative airplanes that would have astonished Orville and Wilbur.
Grabbing attention–and headlines–were the Rolls-Royce Tay-powered Gulfstream 450, the heavy-iron Bombardier Global Express XRS and the faster and longer-range Cessna Citation XLS. The introduction of three business jets–even if they are derivatives of existing models rather than clean-sheet designs–added to the sense of optimism that seemed everywhere last month among the million square feet of exhibit space reserved for the NBAA show in the sprawling Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
There are basically two major international business aviation shows–“major” meaning the business aviation OEMs attend them in force to showcase new products. First is NBAA, held each fall in Orlando, Las Vegas or New Orleans (the only cities with convention centers expansive enough to handle business aviation’s biggest annual event). Then there is EBACE at the Geneva Palexpo, Switzerland. LABACE, the Latin American business aviation show in São Paulo, Brazil, which is young with just one event so far, might shape up to be business aviation’s third big annual event.
NBAA’s big bash is by far the most heavily attended by potential business jet buyers and the media, and it gets nearly all the debuts. That, coupled with the fact that the U.S. is the world’s leading producer and consumer of business aviation products and services, makes the NBAA Convention by far the most important on the show calendar. This year’s conference, with almost 28,000 industry representatives, business aircraft buyers, pilots and corporate tire kickers in attendance, was clearly the most upbeat of conventions held in the last couple of years, with healthy traffic on the exhibit floor and a steady diet of product announcements throughout the three-day show.