While economic considerations may have forced NBAA to cancel its first Light Business Airplane (LBA) show, scheduled for last March in San Diego, most of the educational programs aimed at smaller aircraft operators and planned for that event are being offered here at this year’s convention. “When NBAA announced the launch of the Light Business Airplane show in April 2008, we did so based on feedback from members that own and operate light business airplanes,” Mike Nichols, NBAA’s vice president of operations, education and economics, told NBAA Convention News. “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 that signed on to attend LBA also attend NBAA’s annual showcase, show organizers decided to merge the LBA programming into the fall convention. “Canceling or postponing LBA to some date in the future when the economy is stronger doesn’t sound like a strong commitment,” said Nichols. “We wanted to 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 at NBAA.”
While the show’s focus has largely been on turbojet and turboprop aircraft, this year’s new program additions are expected to increase attendance among piston aircraft operators. “There are a whole range of folks who own and operate piston aircraft in the Orlando area, and 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.
Some of the offerings here this week have a decidedly different twist, according to Nichols, particularly the panel discussion on aircraft acquisitions. “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 themselves or why they’ve hired a pilot. That peer-to-peer communication is going to be important for this market.”
Other sessions in the two days of light aircraft programming will include topical discussions on 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.
While the VLJ landscape on the surface appears little changed since last year’s convention, the segment has indeed gone through a transition, notably with the demise (and subsequent rebirth) of Eclipse and deliveries of the Embraer Phenom 100 (and soon 300) commencing. NBAA expects attendees this year to include 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. It’s really a unique opportunity.”
On the maintenance side, NBAA will be featuring M&O sessions for numerous small business aircraft, including Hawker Beechcraft King Airs and Premiers, Cessna CJs and Mustangs, and the Pilatus PC-12.