ORLANDO — Attendance was down somewhat on the exhibit floor on opening day of the National Business Aviation Association's annual convention, some Wichita exhibitors say.
But "the ones who are here, they really want to talk," said Avcon Industries president Larry Franke.
On Tuesday, the Newton-based company had "three or four really good contacts who came by."
Aero Interior Maintenance general manager Ed Laverentz agreed traffic was slower.
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"I don't see the urgency like there's been in past years" from attendees," Laverentz said at his display at the show.
But people want to talk.
"We've gotten some good leads," he said.
It's Maria Dahlquist's first trade show, however. She started Premium RVSM Services in Kechi over a year ago.
She's at NBAA to get the company's name out there among potential customers.
So far, business has come through word of mouth. RVSM helps aircraft owners obtain temporary and permanent approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly with closer vertical separation to other aircraft. Owners have to prove that their airplanes are capable of flying safely in that area, she said.
"This is our big marketing venture," Dahlquist said.
Overall, aviation industry's business is down 30 to 40 percent, so it's natural that attendance and business at the show would also be down, Aircraft Interior Products' Charles Skelton said at his booth displaying aircraft carpets and other materials to go inside airplanes.
"We're looking at the show with cautious optimism," Skelton said.
Message to Obama
Before the show opened Tuesday morning, Machinists international president Tom Buffenbarger asked hundreds of attendees at a kickoff meeting to call the White House's switchboard and urge President Obama to visit Wichita.
It's important for Obama to see just how much the general aviation industry has been devastated by negative remarks made by Obama and members of Congress about the use of business jets, Buffenbarger said.
The perception that the aircraft are "fancy toys for fat cats" has had a detrimental effect on the industry, Buffenbarger said. "Business aviation is vital to America's economic recovery."
"We watched as the president took his shots," he said. "Let's just say he owes us a visit."
Buffenbarger has twice invited Obama to Wichita.
"With your help, I believe we can make that happen," he said.
He urged them to call the switchboard at 202-456-1414 and leave a message for Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.
"Make it brief; make it businesslike; but make it clear," Buffenbarger said.
Also from NBAA
* PWI Inc. in Wichita has formed a partnership with Lone Star Aviation Corp. in Mansfield, Texas. The companies are promoting new LED lighting to replace fluorescent lighting in aircraft.
The NBAA convention is an important show to attend, said PWI's Bill Steffy.
"It's the only way to stay in business," he said. "If you just wait for it to get better, it's not going to get better. You have to keep trying."
* Winglet Technology of Wichita is showing off the elliptical winglets it has designed for Cessna Citation X business jets. Cessna's Wichita service center is installing the winglets, which it says increase the already speedy jet's speed, range and performance. It has completed the fifth installation and is working on a sixth one, said Winglet Technology's Bob Kiser.
"Business is as good or better than last year," Kiser said.
* The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition has a popular exhibit. It is displaying a Big Dog Motorcycle.
Those stopping by can use specially designed dice to try to spell "W-I-C-H-I-T-A" and win a $38,000 bike.
"This has drawn a lot of attention about Wichita," said the GWEDC's Debra Teufel.
* Cessna said its new Citation CJ4 has beat performance expectations. The light jet is expected to be certified by the end of the year. Test results have been better than predicted on speed, range and time-to-climb, the company said.
* Cessna launched the GreenTrak program, flight-planning software that optimizes a flight profile to help pilots save time and cost and also fly with the lowest carbon footprint. It uses a process called cost indexing to balance the costs of direct operation, fuel burn and carbon emissions, the company said. The program determines a flight plan that will result in the lowest total trip cost in terms of fuel consumed and carbon emitted.
* Hawker Beechcraft said its Hawker 4000 set another four speed records during a trip through Europe earlier this month. The records were set during a demonstration trip that included two crossings of the Atlantic Ocean and 27 flight hours.