As I write this, the 2017 NBAA Convention is drawing to a close. This year’s show was held in Las Vegas, which was still reeling from the horrific shooting at an outdoor music festival that left 58 dead and 500 injured just one week before. There was a subdued, but determined feeling among the Las Vegans I encountered, including several who worked at the primary FBO at McCarran International Airport. As you may have heard, the shooter targeted the GA fuel farm at the airport, but was obviously unsuccessful. The locals I spoke with felt profound sadness, some anger but, most importantly, solidarity that this tragedy cannot and would not break the city’s spirit. For a town’s economy that depends upon tourism and convention business,
I heard time and time again: “Please come back – Vegas is standing strong, we’re not going anywhere.” Across the city, normally glitzy billboards carried somber messages of sympathy along with “#VegasStrong.”
The events of the prior week were on the minds of everyone who walked through the doors of the Las Vegas Convention Center. During the Opening General Session, NBAA CEO welcomed Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who spearheaded the creation of the Las Vegas Victims Fund. During his emotional address, Weekly said, “This city looked evil in its face, and the world saw that Las Vegas is a community, a family. To the 30,000 delegates attending NBAA-BACE, I want to say thank you from our community. You don’t know what it means to all of us to have you here.”
Bolen announced that NBAA Charities made a $10,000 contribution to the Las Vegas Victim’s Fund and encouraged show participants to contribute as well.
This year’s convention took place as debate continued in Washington over the future of the nation’s ATC system. At the media breakfast held just before the show’s opening, leaders from various alphabet organizations – EAA, AOPA, NATA, HAI and NBAA – held a discussion about the proposed legislation that would strip ATC oversight from Congress and hand that authority over to a private, airline-centric board, unaccountable to the public. Out on the convention floor, volunteers wearing bright red shirts emblazoned with “ATC Not for Sale” held iPads, allowing attendees to send an on-the-spot email to their congressmen. Signage, lapel stickers and other promotional items were visible throughout the exhibit hall and the static display of aircraft promoting the www.atcnotforsale.com website. If you haven’t done so, I’d encourage you to visit the site and take advantage of communication resources there.
Overall, NBAA reported that this year’s convention, which marked the 70th anniversary of the association, was one of the largest yet: 1,100 exhibitors with more than 100 new ones; approximately 100 aircraft on static display at Henderson (HND) and the convention center; and three days of
well-attended educational sessions, including a single-pilot safety standdown. From my perspective, the convention floor seemed very busy, with lines forming to climb into mockups or talk to subject experts at various avionics, components and engine manufacturers.
This year’s show was less about blockbuster announcements, although several new jets made their NBAA debut, including the Pilatus PC-24 (which should certify by yearend), Gulfstream G600 and the Bombardier Global 7000. Rather, the news from this year’s show centered on enhancing the value of your asset (i.e. your aircraft), whether that be through safety, technology, connectivity, or creature comforts. Garmin announced its TXi series of touchscreen flight displays that replace the G500/G600. They also showcased their HUD (GHD 2100), which will debut on the Citation Longitude. Engine maker Pratt & Whitney Canada launched a new PT6A certified pre-owned engine program that gives in-service engines a one-year/500-hour first run warranty and other benefits. Embraer debuted the Phenom 300E featuring a beautiful new interior design, as well as inflight entertainment and cabin management system. Tamarack Aerospace announced that the Citation 560XL is the next airframe to undergo certification for the company’s ATLAS active winglets. Gogo Business Aviation demoed its AVANCE L5 that operates on the Gogo 4G network. It that allows voice, data and streaming capability on board a variety of airframes from light to large cabin jets. Jeppesen is collaborating with Universal Avionics, Honeywell and ForeFlight to make its databases available for their products. Finally, a small company called Polaris Aero showcased its unique flight risk program that integrates crowd-sourced information to provide pilots real-time risk alerts (such as runway conditions, ATC quirks, and other gotcha’s) based on each phase of flight.
In spite of the shadow of the Las Vegas tragedy and the continued fight to preserve a fair ATC system, the NBAA convention felt upbeat and energized. Both the city and our industry have a lot in common: we are resilient, resourceful, forward-looking and most of all, a community that pulls together at the most important moments. Just as the city is #VegasStrong, we are #GAstrong.