JUSTIN WASTNAGE / LONDON
The rescheduled NBAA convention may be smaller than the planned September show, but most key manufacturers will be showing up The 54th National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual convention will be like no other in the organisation's history. Always the largest gathering of business aviation professionals in the world, record exhibitor figures had been expected before the tragic events of 11 September forced the postponement of the convention.
At first, exhibitors did not know how to react to the cancellation of the September show, which came as an inevitable reaction to the US terrorist attacks. All the manufacturers praised the NBAA's decision to cancel the convention, not least for logistical reasons. With airspace restrictions crippling general aviation, the aircraft of many attendees and exhibitors could not make it to New Orleans. However, each manufacturer has reacted differently to calls for "business as usual" at the December event.
NBAA president, Jack Olcott, says the rescheduled event is "shaping up nicely". In the exhibition hall, 65% of September exhibitors are arriving, but most have less floor space, to an estimated 40% of September levels - 16,000m² (173,000ft²). But there are fewer static displays at the Lakefront airport than planned in September, with only 50 aircraft on display, compared with over 200.
Of the major manufacturers, only troubled Raytheon is completely absent from the December event. The company's vice president of business aircraft, Brad Hat, says that the logistics of the new event are too great a hurdle to overcome. Raytheon was to debut the Hawker Horizon at the September event and says that there is now little point in being there. Internal restructuring at the Wichita, Kansas-based manufacturer may also have contributed to the management's reluctance to venture south.
Similarly, Gulfstream will not be an NBAA exhibitor this year. Its participation is limited this month to a maintenance and operations session and the sponsorship of the shuttle buses.
Cessna has also scaled down its presence at the convention. It no longer has a stand in the exhibition area, but has both a Citation Excel and Citation X on static display.
Airbus is one of the few companies to claim an unaffected presence. It is exhibiting Aeroservices Executive's Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ). The company says it "fully understands the NBAA's wisdom, but is glad that the event was re-scheduled, rather than cancelled". The event is seen as an excellent showcase for the larger business aircraft, says Airbus.
ACJ's most direct competitor, Boeing Business Jets, however, says that its attendance "corresponds to the revised level of attendance". Lee Monson, the Boeing-General Electric joint venture's president, says that there are still lots of prospective customers, which the company still has commitments to meet, and he expects the convention to yield results. However, he points to a problem that many manufacturers had in deciding what to do with big news stories planned for September. It announced major orders at the Dubai air show rather than hold them back.
Some manufacturers said they were concerned that three months is too long to wait for the re-scheduled show, as marketing campaigns coinciding with such announcements were already well advanced.
For Embraer, the convention is vital to showcase the ERJ-145-based Legacy, its first business jet, which is near certification. The Brazilian airframer's level of participation will be close to its planned September level.Full schedule
Bombardier is still planning a full schedule of events at the show. The company says that the debut of the Continental - serial number 2001 - would have been rushed for the September event and the company is now in a better position to inform potential customers about the aircraft's performance, as the aircraft has spent three months undergoing flight tests. The Canadians are not sending the original 500-strong army of personnel planned for the September event. Instead, like most of its peers, only core staff will attend.
The timing of the rescheduled event was not ideal - 12 days before Christmas may be inconvenient for many, and it also conflicts with year-end reports and customer delivery timetables. Olcott says: It is an imperfect time for the industry. But the feeling is that the community wanted to get together, whatever the hurdles."
However, some firms cannot attend due to industrial constraints. Honeywell has almost entirely pulled out, citing a full convention and air-show schedule. Fractional ownership leader, Executive Jet, puts its reduced presence down to similar reasons.Reduced capacity
Dassault Falcon Jet says it will be at the December event, albeit with a reduced presence. The French manufacturer had intended to release details of the Falcon 7X at the September event. This announcement was made last month, leaving Dassault with little to reveal, except a possible mock-up of the aircraft. The company will, indeed, have several "aircraft and other items" on static display.
In all, the NBAA is pleased with the level of participation this time around. Although it could lose up to $10 million from the cancellation of the original event, Olcott says that the attendees present are the most important in the industry. The side-show seminars, he adds, are likely to be better attended than ever, as key industry players meet to address the core issues facing the business aviation community.
Source: Flight International