Wings Magazine

Features Business Aviation
NBAA 2003: Hope and Celebration

Powered flight is 100 years old, but remains approximately 12 months away from the next major recovery.

October 1, 2007  By Rob Seaman

197-show-take-offTHE LATEST EDITION of the National Business Aviation Association’s
Conference and Trade Show has slipped into history. Over the years this
event has seen the exciting and flashy launch of many new ideas,
concepts and innovations – however, in spite of more than 1,000 trade
show displays and a wellpopulated static display, the overall
atmosphere and presentation this year was somewhat akin to a mediocre
wedding – there was lots that was old, very little new, quite a bit
borrowed and a great deal of the blues.

The event this year was
focused on the celebration of the 100th anniversary of powered flight.
During the opening ceremonies, the new heads of the NBAA and FAA were
joined with some noted living aviation icons like Bob Hoover, Neil
Armstrong and Alan Shepard. The backdrop to their opening presentation
was the very accurate, fullscale replica of the Wright Flyer – which
will recreate the famed brothers’ first flight from Kitty Hawk in mid-
December – and an extensive display of aviation history. This was
presented by the Ford Motor Company, the EAA, Microsoft and Eclipse
Aviation. The display was an excellent lead-in to the convention and
featured two flight simulation units built around mocked-up centre
sections of the ‘Flyer’, which in turn were connected to wide-screen
video displays and a PC with Microsoft Flight Simulator. Designed to
fully mimic the flight characteristics the two bicycle building
brothers faced all those years ago, we watched many a skilled corporate
pilot dive and crash while trying to simultaneously shift his body
weight, use the rudimentary flight controls and manage to maintain some
semblance of control. More than a few bruised egos walked away with a
whole new respect for both the achievement of a century ago and the
massive strides we have managed since then in flight.

While the
number of people displaying their products and services at the NBAA was
up to record levels this year, the overall attendance was not. At last
count, the show did not break 29,000 – and in a year when many of the
OEMs are reporting reduced deliveries, staff layoffs and few new
models, this was both significant and symbolic. Also gone were the
generous trinkets and trash and high-profile social gatherings. Some
firms completely did away with their large-format evening events this
year – while others held their invitation lists and hospitality suites
under tight control and presented carefully prepared, highly focused,
low-key ways to thank those who are doing business with them today and
those who may be close for tomorrow. Even the simple things like pens,
hats and shirts were a little scarce this year and many firms were just
taking names to send along printed materials after the show – selective
and targeted marketing was very much in vogue.



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