NBAA introduces ‘lighter’ fare at annual convention

 - July 27, 2009, 10:36 AM

While economic considerations forced NBAA to cancel its first annual Light Business Aircraft (LBA) show originally scheduled for March this year, the organization is not ignoring the owners and operators of smaller aircraft and will include many of the educational offerings it had originally planned for LBA at the NBAA 62nd Annual Meeting and Convention, October 20 to 22, in Orlando.

“When NBAA announced the Light Business Airplane show in April of 2008, we launched it based on feedback we had received from members who own and operate light business airplanes,” Mike Nichols, NBAA’s vice president of operations, education and economics told AIN. “Ultimately, in January, we had to make the decision to not launch that inaugural show in 2009 because of the economic environment.”

As most of the exhibitors previously signed on to attend LBA also attend NBAA, it made sense for the organizers to merge the LBA programming into the annual convention. “Canceling or postponing LBA to some date in the future when the economy is stronger doesn’t sound like a definite commitment,” said Nichols. “We wanted to keep the eye on the ball and support these members and, of course, attract new members who are operating these types of aircraft for business purposes so they can take advantage of the resources we have here at NBAA.”

While the annual NBAA convention’s focus has largely been on turbojet and turboprop aircraft, the addition of the new programming is expected to increase attendance among piston airplane operators. “There is a whole range of folks who own and operate piston aircraft in the Orlando geographic area. We think this is going to be a strong draw in the Southeast, in particular for folks to fly their airplanes and attend NBAA,” said Nichols.

Among the slate of programs traditionally held at the convention, some of this year’s offerings will have a decidedly different twist, according to Nichols, including a panel discussion on aircraft acquisitions. “Instead of bringing in an aircraft broker who is trying to sell you an airplane, we’re bringing in peers to speak to the audience.
Entrepreneurs who have made decisions to own and operate aircraft will talk about why they made the decisions. They’ll talk about why they decided to set it up under this structure, how they approached the tax issues, how many hours they are flying, why they fly it themselves or why they’ve hired a pilot to fly for them. So all of
that peer-to-peer communication, I think, is really going to be important for this market and different from the way we’ve approached this in the past.”

Other sessions in the two days of light aircraft programming will involve discussions about owner flying versus hiring pilots, choosing the best airplane for your needs, recordkeeping, aircraft sharing, NBAA’s small aircraft exemption and safety seminars aimed at single-pilot aircraft operation, as well as a presentation by flight training gurus John and Martha King on making the leap to owning and operating your own aircraft.

While on the surface the VLJ landscape  appears little changed since last year’s show, with just two OEMs currently producing diminutive turbine models, the segment has indeed gone through a transition with the demise of Eclipse and deliveries of the Embraer Phenom 100 commencing, and NBAA expects to attract a number of prospective light jet purchasers. “It will be an opportunity for them to interact with the OEMs on the exhibit floor and then sit in a session on what it takes to buy an aircraft like this,” said Nichols. “Maybe they don’t want to buy a whole airplane, so they will sit in a session on sharing an aircraft and how to approach that, so it’s really a unique opportunity.”

On the maintenance side, NBAA again will be featuring M&O sessions for numerous small business aircraft, including Hawker Beechcraft King Airs and Premiers, Cessna’s CJ series and Mustangs and the Pilatus PC-12.

Another event scheduled for this October’s NBAA that is sure to attract the attention of light business aircraft operators is the Cessna-sponsored Single-pilot Safety Standdown, which will focus on the issues of single-pilot operation.