ORLANDO — Despite the devastation in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy, 25,150 people attended the 65th annual National Business Aviation Association’s annual meeting and convention in Orlando.
That’s about 1,000 fewer attendees than last year, but it’s higher than in 2010, when the show drew 24,206. Convention-goers came from all 50 states and 87 countries.
The count of exhibitors ended up at 1,073, and they were spread over 1 million square feet at the Orange County Convention Center. There also were 105 aircraft on display at two separate static displays.
Talking to people on the exhibit floor and at news conferences, it’s interesting to note how many have Wichita connections.
Often, when you meet someone, they either work in Wichita, launched their careers there, used to work in Wichita, or do business in Wichita.
When you travel around the country, a lot of people say, “Where’s Wichita?” said one convention-goer. Here, people say, “Oh, you’re from Wichita!”
Wichita is like the Atlanta airport, said Dave Franson, president of the Wichita Aero Club.
“If you fly anywhere to the south, you have to go through Atlanta,” Franson said. “If you want to go anywhere in the industry, you have to go through Wichita to get there. It’s a hub.”
Fuel for economy
The NBAA show serves up reminders about the economic contributions made by the business aviation industry.
According to show organizers, business aviation contributes $150 billion to the annual economy and employs more than 1.2 billion people.
Only about 3 percent of 15,000 business aircraft registered in the U.S. are flown by Fortune 500 companies, according to NBAA figures. The rest are operated by organizations, governments, universities, charities and large, medium and small businesses.
Business aviation reaches 10 times the number of U.S. airports, more than 5,000, than the airlines, which fly to about 70 major airports.
Hawker Beechcraft announced that it’s taken orders for nine new Beechcraft products, valued at more than $34 million.
The orders include five King Airs and four Barons. They were placed by four Beechcraft distributors, including Aerolineas in Mexico, Aviaservice in Colombia, the Caribbean and Venezuela, Aviasur in Chile and Beechcraft de Guatemala in Central America.
Fractional ownership company Flexjet and Wichita-based Bombardier Learjet spotlighted the new composite-built Learjet 85 business jet at this year’s show.
It was the 10th stop in an 11-city U.S. tour, during which visitors can see a mock-up display.
The plane is assembled in Wichita. The program was launched in 2007, with first deliveries expected next year.
Bombardier and fractional ownership company NetJets held an event at the static display at the Orlando Executive Airport.
Bombardier is displaying a Global 6000 that will be handed over to NetJets at the end of the show.