Katrina Bradshaw, NBAA’s vice president of static displays and forums, said the association realized early in the planning process for this year’s show that they were running out of parking spaces for the static display at Henderson Executive Airport just seven miles south of Las Vegas’s McCarran International. “At Orlando, we have much more space,” she said, adding that, fortunately, the approval for the extra spots needed to accommodate 74 aircraft came through without a hitch. In an innovative move, this year the association is hosting an additional display of 14 aircraft outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as to the usual complement of aircraft brought inside the facility for the event.
Bradshaw said the static displays have always been a huge draw for the show, even during lean economic times. “Sixty percent of the people who attend the show head for the static displays,” where a considerable amount of buying and selling takes place, she said.
Organizing which aircraft fit where is “like a big puzzle,” Bradshaw said. Even with the extra spots at Henderson, she said the association doesn’t think of static aircraft by numbers, but rather by square footage, much like floor planning for a retail operation. “And when we fill up, we have to cut off more reservations,” she explained. Despite the need for hangar-planning software to make the layout work, she added, “We’re always triple-checking our measurements just to be sure everything will fit.” Most of the OEMs were committed to the show by early summer, which meant the extra space could then be divvied up among the independent dealers and brokers.
Bradshaw said NBAA began the planning process for the static displays back in the spring, although the chessboard game of being sure every aircraft really does fit the space outlined actually began on September 29, “when we started measuring out the spaces [at Henderson].” Tents for static display exhibitors blossomed on the airport ramps the next day.
Hawker Beechcraft was the first company to arrive at Henderson on October 5 to begin installing its pavilion. That was the lead off to even more traffic-cop duties for the NBAA crew because parking the aircraft in the right locations is as much about timing as it is the skill of the wing walkers and tug drivers. Bradshaw said the first OEM aircraft arrived at about 9 a.m. on October 8. “We’ve all worked together for so long that the OEMs realize how important it is to the overall success of the show that everyone arrive within 30 minutes of their plan.” Luckily for Vegas, weather is seldom a concern, although airline traffic at busy McCarran International could always be a factor. “We try our best to accommodate late arrivals, but we don’t have much room to move aircraft around if someone is late,” Bradshaw said.
The aircraft parked outside the convention center entrance to wow passersby flew into McCarran. While the aircraft certainly couldn’t taxi the one mile from the airport to the static display, they were able to be towed down the main streets of Las Vegas in the wee hours of the morning of October 6. “We had to obtain a number of special-event permits from the city,” Bradshaw said, “not to mention engaging quite a few police to handle the ground traffic.
“It takes a village [of people] to move all these airplanes,” she said. For the static-display team however, dealing with the automobiles or spectators out on the street at that hour were the least of their concerns. “We had curbs to climb and street signs to move or take down to allow the aircraft to pass,” Bradshaw explained. “Then there were the restaurant signs that need to be negotiated, as well as ditches, culverts and trees.”