Signs of the general aviation recession were hidden by optimism at the 2016 National Business Aviation Association’s convention, held in Orlando, Florida in early November. The NBAA show has been internationalized with the added “BACE” (business aviation convention & exposition) appellation, making it officially the NBAA BACE. As the worth of business flying spreads around the globe, sparked by North America’s example of bizav, the European EBACE, Latin American LABACE and other such shows have continued NBAA’s targeted convention and trade show model. As the U.S.’s 6th largest trade show, the annual NBAA meeting alternates between the venues of Orlando and Las Vegas.
Orlando’s weather couldn’t have been better this year, after Hurricane Matthew blew past just a month or so earlier. A total of 129 aircraft were on static display for the show; nine were towed the ten miles from Orlando International airport in the dead of night so they could be exhibited in the Orange County Convention Center, along with six helicopters, and the rest were crowded onto the Atlantic Aviation ramp at Orlando Executive airport. Over 1,100 exhibitor spaces were packed into the OCCC’s main hall.
“At the convention center and the airport alike, exhibitors and attendees have told us that this year’s NBAA-BACE was a resounding success,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, following the show. “The activity level was high and the enthusiasm was strong. Equally important, the show provided a reminder of the industry’s size and significance in the U.S. and around the world.”
As always, NBAA offered educational and safety-oriented seminars throughout the show, along with general sessions featuring notable speakers and presentations. Day One’s opening session had remarks from Congressman Sam Graves, leader of the General Aviation Caucus, followed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, relating how cooperative efforts of business aviation and CBP had eased many travel requirements. Among other CBP accomplishments, there are now 15 pre-clear locations, such as Shannon, Ireland, that allow aircraft to clear customs before entering the U.S., and a procedural change so that CBP no longer requires APUs to be shut down while an aircraft is being processed for entry.
Sharing the opening session was author and historian David McCullough, whose latest book “The Wright Brothers” portrays an intimate look at the life and times of the fathers of controlled powered flight. McCullough related how the Wrights efforts were supported by strong family ties and perseverance in the face of failure. He quoted the Wrights as saying “No bird ever soared in a calm.” McCullough was also feted on the second day at NBAA by receiving the Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame, an unexpected honor but well deserved.
The Second Day’s General Session was more political in tone, in keeping with the looming history-making election. Representative Bill Flores of Texas and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told how bi-partisan work in the Senate helped thwart plans for ATC privatization, user fees and other mischief. Senator Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle, was presented with NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award. However, the most heavily-attended presentation was one featuring remarks from political power couple Mary Matalin and James Carville, whose across-the-fence repartee always brings insight into the workings of the political process. By the time you read this, of course, their predictions of a Presidential election full of surprises will be history.
News At The Show
There are always notable announcements forthcoming at NBAA. The major surprise on Mondy was the presentation of an FAA type certificate to Cirrus Aircraft for its SF50 Vision personal jet, the first single-engine jet to achieve such status. While not exactly a business aircraft, the 6,000-lb. all-composite Vision seats six or seven and cruises at 300 knots up to FL280, pushed along by a Williams FJ33-5A fanjet. Deliveries are to begin in December. Commonality with the piston-engine Cirrus airplanes includes a ballistic emergency parachute, sidestick controls and Garmin’s G3000-based Perspective touch-screen avionics suite. It has reportedly attracted 600 orders and production will be steadily ramped up to reach a rate of one aircraft per week by the end of 2017, in order to meet demand. The Vision is priced
At the other end of the scale, Embraer brought its $26-million redesigned Legacy 650E to the show, featuring Honeywell Primus Elite avionics, and Textron Aviation displayed its prototype of the Citation Longitude mid-size jet, fresh from its first flight, with an announcement of performance increases over initial projections. A full cabin mockup of the Citation Hemisphere also attracted much attention. The Honeywell Primus Epic cockpit has been selected for the Hemisphere, and it will be powered by the Safran (formerly SNECMA) Silvercrest engine.
On Day Two, Pilatus flew its Number Two PC-24 “Super Versatile” jet to the show for a short visit; it was already based in the U.S. for environmental and avionics testing. Some 1,000 hours have been flown on the PC-24 program, in 600 flights.
In other news, Duncan Aviation is testing a Winglet Technologies transitional winglet retrofit for the Citation Sovereign and FlightSafety International announced the availability of Master Level Advanced Training for King Air, Citation, Pilatus PC-12, Falcon and Gulfstream pilots.
Sales announcements at the show included a Textron Aviation transaction involving the sale of three Citation X’s to long-time customer Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, and Piaggio’s sale of five Avanti Evolution airplanes to West Coast Aviation Services. Daher announced the recent delivery of its 800th TBM turboprop, and the company is expecting to deliver over 50 TBMs in 2016.
The vitality of business aviation was apparent at Orlando, despite the challenges of a flagging global economy and political uncertainty. No other transportation system can serve the needs of corporate travels with flexible response and broad access. Make plans now to attend the 2017 NBAA BACE, to be held in Las Vegas October 10
to 12, 2017