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Traffic down, but business good at NBAA

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, at 11:57 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at 6:03 a.m.

— Some of Wichita’s exhibitors at this year’s National Business Aviation Association convention say Hurricane Sandy kept some traffic away from the show.

“It’s not a continuous flow of traffic as we’ve seen in previous years, but those that are stopping by, they’re the right people – they’re the people we need to be speaking with,” said Sam Peters, branch manager of TW Metals in Wichita. “We’re doing business”

Tim Bonnell Jr., president of PIM Aviation Insurance in Wichita agreed.

“It’s a good crowd here, but it’s obviously been affected by the hurricane,” Bonnell said. “The traffic seems just a little lighter, but we are having good quality conversations with customers.”

The show is important to Wichita.

“We come because our customers are here exhibiting,” said Bret Heinz, sales manager at Mid Continent Controls in Derby. “We’re here to support them.”

It’s easy to stop by a customer’s booth or to have customers come to their exhibit and see new products, Heinz said.

The company designs and manufactures cabin management systems, such as audio, video, entertainment and cabin-power products for business jet interiors.

Heinz described the mood at the show as similar to that of the past three or four years.

“There’s not any huge excitement,” Heinz said. “It’s kind of a ‘wait and see until the economy gets better again.’ ”

Peters, with TW Metals, said it’s great to see that Cessna, its biggest customer, is investing in itself and developing new products.

“We’re really excited about the fact,” Peters said. “We need a healthy Cessna. It’s refreshing to see (them) showing up in full force and doing what they do best, making airplanes.”

It’s especially important given the hardships of Hawker Beechcraft, which is working through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Selling Wichita

Traffic has been brisk at the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition’s booth.

“We’ve had a good show,” said Suzie Ahlstrand, the coalition’s interim president.

The exhibit has offered snacks and drinks and a place to visit and rest. That’s brought a lot of people in, Ahlstrand said.

In addition, they’ve had high interest from 15 to 20 companies wanting to talk further with the GWEDC.

Some are thinking about expanding. Others want to talk about their companies. Some are from Wichita; some are not, Ahlstrand said.

While traffic overall has been softer, “it’s not the people that walk by, but the quality of the interest,” she said.

Aero Club trophy

Wichita Aero Club president Dave Franson announced at the booth Wednesday the winner of this year’s Aero Club trophy.

The award goes to John O’Leary and the Airbus engineering center in Old Town. Airbus is celebrating its 10th year in Wichita. The site employs about 300.

Past recipients include Jeff Turner, CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, and the late Velma Wallace.

New products touted

Product announcements at NBAA haven’t been limited to the largest manufacturers. Wichita’s smaller companies have introduced new products or announced partnerships.

Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics in Wichita rolled out a new standby display at this week’s convention.

The MD302 Standby Attitude Module is a self-contained instrument that provides pilots with attitude, altitude, airspeed and slip information.

The instrument can be used during normal operations or as a backup in case the primary instrument fails.

The device is designed to fit in less space on the panel than a standard set of 2-inch mechanical attitude, altitude and airspeed indicators.

The two-screen display can be oriented horizontally or vertically. One screen is for attitude, the other for airspeed and altitude.

The 1.6 pound instrument was designed, certified and built in Wichita.

Its retails for $10,600.

The company recently added six employees, including two engineers, an engineering assistant, program analyst, international sales manager and an avionics programs sales person.

Appearance Group in Wichita renewed a 10-year agreement with Townsend Leather and the Leather Institute as an authorized service provider to refinish and repair leather on the inside of business jets.

The company can take the leather on an airplane seat, for example, and renew to a “like-new finish,” said Matthew Henry, president of Appearance Group.

It also renews the paint job, returning it to a high-gloss finish, and restores aircraft cabinetry.

Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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