A glance outside the window at the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot this week should be all you need to appreciate NBAA’s commitment to the light business aircraft (LBA) segment. It’s chock-a-block with the kinds of airplanes typically flown by their owners. Those aircraft operators who occupy the left seat, as well as sign most of the checks, are important to the association for a number of reasons. And NBAA would like to make the feeling mutual.
The result is a full slate of programs, seminars and work sessions here in Las Vegas devoted to owner-pilots in the LBA segment. “A lot of the advocacy work NBAA does has a direct benefit for LBA pilots as well as NBAA’s traditional professional crews and flight departments,” said Mike Nichols, v-p of operations, education and economics for the association. “But we don’t necessarily do a good job communicating to those pilots how much they mean to us.” NBAA would like to ramp up its effort to get those pilots into the fold. And for the association, the value is often felt when an influential LBA pilot is able to present the business aviation perspective to government officials–sometimes at surprisingly high levels.
To serve this pilot constituency better, this week’s convention kicked off yesterday with a full-day Single-Pilot Safety Standdown, sponsored by NBAA and Cessna. The agenda featured peer-to-peer information sharing, focus on emerging technologies and decision-support systems that enhance safety. Later in the day, a “safety focus” session titled “FAF Inbound” zeroed in on the final approach segment of flight. And NBAA leveraged its business expertise with a session for LBA pilots titled, “Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Costs of Your Business Airplane.” Finally, “Passing FL180” touched on high-altitude flying, addressing issues of safety and operational elements found in the flight levels, and perhaps new to owner-pilots stepping up to more capable personal airplanes.
Today’s LBA sessions are both focused on the business and financial regulatory aspects of personal business flying: “Getting Reimbursed for Flights–What do the FARs Say?” (10:30 to 11:30) and “Tax Benefits when Using Business Aircraft” (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.).
And then there are the benefits that transcend numbers and spread sheets. There’s no more glowing example of the best use of a light business aircraft than how Kestrel Aircraft president Alan Klapmeier chose to use his Piper Meridian over the past week.
A family member in Minnesota, now in the late stages of cancer, had a long-time, unfulfilled wish. Klapmeier said, “He’s a big [University of Minnesota] Gopher fan, and for years he and a friend had talked about making a long ‘road trip’ to an away game. Minnesota was playing Purdue this past Saturday, and I was able to take him and his friend. Except, I teased him it was an ‘air’ trip, instead of a road trip.”
Sounds simple enough, until Klapmeier described his itinerary over the past several days. He flew from home in Duluth to the Kestrel facility in Brunswick, Maine, on Wednesday followed by a short business trip to New Hampshire on Thursday, then back to Minnesota on Friday. He flew his relative down-and-back to the game in West Lafayette, Ind., on Saturday (unfortunately, the Boilermakers beat the Golden Gophers 45-17, but that hardly mattered), and Klapmeier then flew here to Las Vegas on Sunday for the NBAA show. “The pressurized cabin and airstair entry door made it a comfortable trip for him,” said Klapmeier. “And this shows how much flexibility you have–and some of the truly important things you can do–with a personal business airplane.”