How goes the show?

 - June 30, 2008, 9:52 AM

Considering all that has happened in the past 365 days, exhibitors seemed generally pleased with NBAA’s 55th Annual Meeting and Convention. There was agreement that while attendance is off from pre-9/11 versions, the quality remained high and many exhibitors reported doing good business.

“We’ve done more business here than any time in the past,” said Rudy Frasca, president of Frasca International. Understandably putting in a plug for his company and the industry as a whole, he said, “Whatever problems are out there, simulators seem to be the answer. There are new things coming up, new  technologies, and it’s a wonderful place to see it all in one place.”

But others said business was slow. “We’re not getting the traffic we used to get,” said Jim Van Guilder, president of Corrosion Technologies. “We’ve had good contacts but we’re not talking to that many people, not like the past. I filed IFR and was told I had to have a slot reservation, so I went into Kissimmee VFR. There was little traffic in Center or Approach.”

Karl Blomgren, director of marketing for Dayton-Granger Inc., agreed. “Last year was a lot smaller, but the quality was still good,” he said. “This one is larger again, but with less people than 2000, less than one would expect. [But] it’s been a good show.” He admitted that maybe his expectations were a little higher.

Cosby Stone, managing partner, publisher and CEO of TAP Publishing (Trade-A-Plane), said the show has attracted an enthusiastic audience. He observed there were fewer international visitors than usual, whom he expects will return next year.

“They are probably more afraid of being here than we are,” said Stone. “Our traffic is very steady and good. This was an interesting place to be as we look back at last year.”

Kevin O’Hara, director of marketing for AirCell, said, “I think it’s been very successful. We saw many very qualified and interested buyers. Clearly, people are shopping and getting information to make informed purchases.”

Said Hal Shevers of Sporty’s, “It’s certainly better than it was five years ago when the economy was bad, but this show is just as good as two years ago. When the convention had to be rescheduled last year, everybody thought it would be a bust. But it was damn good–a gutsy thing for NBAA to do and it worked.”

Bill Midon of InterVest International came to NBAA to “get a good view of what’s going on in the industry and to meet people,” and he was not disappointed. “Orlando is a great spot to hold this convention,” said Midon. “I’m pleased that so many people exhibited.”

Mike Buckley of Advanced Aircraft Coatings was one who thought the show is okay, though foot traffic is not nearly as heavy as in sites such as New Orleans, Houston or Dallas.

“Everybody I talk to has been out at the static display, but not at the show,” he said. “We’ve attended NBAA, HAI and the AS3 Supershow. I’m kind of disappointed. I wish there was a way to have the static display here.”

Jon Gilbert, president of Iridium satcom service provider Blue Sky Net, described his feeling about having the NBAA convention straddle the anniversary of the attack. “I was pretty moved this morning,” he said, “but I think it’s good and right to have it. It’s part of a spirit of renewal. This has been a good show for us. We’ve had lots of interest and made a few sales.”

Wulfsberg navcom product manager Bob Evans opined that an NBAA show at this time “was very appropriate. I was here at 8:46 a.m. [yesterday] when they had the minute of silence. I don’t think it shouldn’t have been held.”

His impression of the show was positive. “I think things are optimistic from our standpoint,” Evans said. “I’m optimistic about the future of our business because our product is geared to the retrofit market. As long as the guys keep flying their airplanes they’ll want the latest avionics, and avionics become obsolete a lot sooner than the airplanes.”

Heather Kula Dynes, Flight Options director of corporate communications, called the show atmosphere “optimistic and busy” with a lot of business being done. With respect to 9/11, Dynes added, “People [at the show] are reaching out to their loved ones, but it’s right to be here because we can’t let the terrorists win. We’ve got to keep doing our business.”