NBAA 2001: A repeat performance in the Big Easy

 - May 7, 2008, 7:30 AM

The world’s economy may be in a financial funk, but you wouldn’t know it from the advance sales for this month’s NBAA 54th Annual Meeting and Convention in New Orleans. Despite the global monetary downturn, at press time nearly 5,000 booth spaces had been sold to more than 1,000 exhibitors–124 of which are first-timers.

The annual gathering makes its second consecutive appearance in the “City that Care Forgot” from September 18 to 20. This is believed to be only the second time in NBAA history that the annual gathering has been held back-to-back in the same venue, although that will recur in the next few years since only three cities are currently deemed suitable to hold bizav’s big event. Last year, 965 exhibitors accounted for 4,750 booth spaces, while attendance peaked at 29,421.

Unlike previous years when new airframe announcements had been leaked in advance, the rumor mill has been noticeably quiet, although manufacturers’ assembly lines are humming along in an effort to fill fat order books. As recently as July, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) announced record highs for total industry billings, bolstered by record shipments of turbine airplanes in both the U.S. and abroad.

Although the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center along the banks of the Mississippi will once again be chockablock with exhibitors, mockups and actual aircraft, attention will also turn to the static display at New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NEW).

Two new entrants in the super-midsize business jet category made their maiden flights within days of each other last month, and they could be sharing ramp space at the convention’s static display, where they will be joined by at least 135 other aircraft.

Bombardier Aerospace’s Continental will be flown to New Orleans from Wichita, where it successfully completed its first flight on August 14 on a two-hour sortie from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Despite being in the throes of early flight testing, the Continental will be painted in the same new Bombardier livery as the rest of the Canadian manufacturer’s offerings.

Raytheon Aircraft’s super-midsize bizjet, the Hawker Horizon, took its 2.5-hr maiden trip aloft August 11, also in Wichita, but from Beech Field. At press time Raytheon was indicating it wanted to take the Horizon out of flight test and have it accompany the rest of the Raytheon product line at Lakefront Airport.

The world’s largest show dedicated solely to business aviation actually begins with the NBAA Fourth Annual Chairman’s Charity Classic Golf Tournament on the morning of September 16. Also scheduled that day are four day-long events–a professional development program (PDP) course on management/administrative policies and procedures, a small flight department management program, an emergency response workshop and the 10th annual tax conference.

Monday, September 17 will see an equally busy day, as some of Sunday’s conferences continue for a second day and are joined by others. Even after the convention officially closes September 20 with the awards reception and banquet, another PDP course and two more workshops are penciled in for September 21, with one continuing to the next day.

Is Longer Better?
Last year, after much discussion and press coverage at the convention, NBAA briefly flirted with the idea of extending the annual confab from three days to three-and-a-half or four days. But after surveying a random sample of both operating members and associate members, NBAA said the majority of the respondents favored a three-day event.

NBAA hired Business Marketing Research to survey its members, seeking their guidance as the association plans for future events. According to Olcott, one option was to open only the static display for a fourth day.

“However, those member company representatives who responded seemed to feel that three days for both indoor and outdoor displays were appropriate,” he said. “If conditions change, we’ll revisit the issue.”

The association is also pondering new locations to augment the only three with the convention facilities and nearby airports to accommodate the size of the NBAA Convention. The event will be held the next two years in Orlando, Fla., because next year’s originally scheduled Anaheim, Calif., site was deemed too small. Even though the latter has expanded, and Southern California is home to NBAA’s largest member base, it would have required placing exhibits on two levels, which Olcott said “is not ideal.”

Luckily, when Anaheim was scrapped, Orlando was available. It already had been selected to host the 2003 convention.

NBAA is “actively looking” for new sites to join New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas, but any host city would have to have a convention center with at least one million square feet of preferably contiguous floor space and a close-by general aviation airport that can accommodate large business jets.

NBAA officials had talks with Chicago about possibly having the convention there, but that was given a thumbs down by the association unless and until the city changes its mind about closing Meigs Field. In a letter to the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, Olcott said that because of Mayor Richard Daley’s desire to convert the airport into another park, NBAA has crossed McCormick Place off its list of potential sites “at this time.”

Manufacturer Announcements
Meanwhile, back in the Crescent City, the 54th edition of NBAA’s annual extravaganza will see Dassault put some more meat on the bones of its Falcon FNX announced at the Paris Air Show in June. The company will announce whether the Honeywell AS905 or the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306 will power the trijet. Regardless of which engine is chosen, the 5,700-nm Falcon will have more than 18,000 lb of thrust.

Dassault gave the new airplane the code-name FNX, and its real moniker will be revealed at NBAA, along with other weights and specs. FNX uses a high-sweep, advanced technology wing, fly-by-wire controls and the EASy flight deck, which is based on the Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite.

A cockpit mockup with an actual EASy flight deck, which was announced at last year’s NBAA, will be on display at the company’s exhibit in the convention hall. It will be under power so visitors can experience how it functions.

In addition to pulling the Continental out of flight test to be in New Orleans, Bombardier is bringing its full stable of business aircraft–Learjets 31, 45 and 60; Challenger 604; and Global Express. The Challenger demonstrator will feature the company’s new PrecisionPlus avionics.

Bombardier expects to have a “significant” product announcement, as well as new services in the field of fractional ownership/charter.

Gulfstream makes the short trip to New Orleans finally seeing the light at the end of the FAA’s tunnel on its enhanced vision system (EVS), and rolled out the first test article for the GV-SP early last month. But it steadfastly refused to make any revelations about the next version of the GIV, the GIV-X, which is the industry’s worst-kept secret.

The first GV-SP test aircraft is a standard GV, which the company built into essentially a GV-SP without the change to main entry door position. It has the complete advanced cockpit and performance improvements, and its first flight is targeted for the fourth quarter.

The Savannah, Ga.-based company said it has the type-inspection authorization (TIA) for the EVS for the first time, and expected to begin flying with FAA pilots last month in preparation for certification. Gulfstream admitted that it really “has jumped over some hurdles” in bringing the EVS technology to market.

Meanwhile, after parent company General Dynamics bought Galaxy Aerospace earlier this year, the super-midsize Galaxy has been rebranded the Gulfstream 200 and the Astra SPX is now the Gulfstream 100. All four of the current Gulfstream products–the two former Galaxy aircraft, the GIV-SP and the GV–will be on display at NEW.

In what may be the longest-running bizjet development program, the first conforming prototype of the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 will make its NBAA debut at the convention. Since its first hop November 30 last year, the speedy, rangy twinjet has racked up 70 hr during 50 flights, and it will come to New Orleans with “a lot of orange boxes” in it.

After weathering a funding crisis that forced layoffs early this year and now reinvigorated by a $100 million injection of cash from Taiwanese investors, the company is nearly back to full strength and is on track for FAA certification at the end of next year and first delivery in early of 2003.

Fairchild Dornier, which early this year hired Dean Rush as president of its corporate aircraft division, will be featuring its Envoy 3 and Envoy 7 business jets with full-scale mockups at its exhibit in the convention center.

Out at Lakefront, the company will have the Envoy 3 executive version interior in its older twin-turboprop Do 328, and an Envoy 3 corporate shuttle. Unfortunately, a complete Envoy 3 demonstrator will not be ready in time for this year’s NBAA. The corporate shuttle will be available for demo flights, however.

Fairchild Dornier also anticipates talking to NBAA attendees about the hybrid “Super Shark” winglet, which it designed at its German manufacturing facility for the Envoy 7. The company said that wind-tunnel testing has proved the tweaked tips will give better time-to-climb, reduce buffet and yield better stability, as well as increase range.

The company plans on making a couple of Envoy 7 announcements. The Envoy 7 is based on the 728JET, which will fly early next year. The first Envoy 7 airframe will fly late next year as part of the 728JET flight-test program.

Seminars and Awards
In addition to kicking tires and making wingtip-to-wingtip comparisons on the static line at Lakefront, and eyeballing more than 900 exhibits in the Morial Convention Center, attendees will be able to choose from among 65 informational sessions and seminars.

These not only include in-depth one- or two-day presentations on specific management topics, but also the always popular and well attended aircraft- and engine-specific maintenance and operations sessions. NBAA’s standing committees also meet and several host presentations for attendees.

NBAA will honor a number of people at the annual gathering. At the president’s luncheon on September 18, Al Ueltschi, founder of FlightSafety International, will receive the 2001 NBAA American Spirit award.

Although some sessions remain on September 21 and 22, the official close of the convention will be September 20 with the awards banquet. NBAA will present its Meritorious Service to Aviation award to Experimental Aircraft Association founder Paul Poberezny and its John P. “Jack” Doswell award to Myron Collier, longtime corporate pilot and former NBAA director.

NBAA also will honor one of its own when it makes former staffer John Pope the first recipient of the Staff Lifetime Achievement Award. He became the third person on a three-person staff when he joined NBAA in July 1961 to serve the association’s 325 members, and is being honored for his energy in building the membership. By the time Pope retired in 1984, it had grown to about 3,000 members.

Entertainment at the awards will be provided by the Smothers Brothers, who performed at a previous NBAA show to rave reviews.