The Greater Wichita Economic Development Group wanted to make sure Wichita had a high profile at the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention.
“Communities across the country are very aggressive in terms of recruiting aerospace industries and aviation industries,” said GWEDC president Tim Chase.
They recognize the economic impact aviation manufacturing has on their communities, he said, noting that one aviation manufacturing job can create up to three to four more jobs.
“It can be that high,” he said.
“Having the largest presence of any state in the show and certainly the largest presence of any community I’ve seen at the show, we are taking good care of what we’ve got,” Chase said. “We do not want to run the risk of losing anyone.”
The large bright yellow booth was filled with about 75 NBAA attendees, about half of them Wichitans, at a reception Tuesday.
The purpose of exhibiting at the show is also to pique the interest of more companies about what Wichita has to offer, Chase said.
“We have to create new jobs,” he said.
Ed Ball, vice president of sales and marketing for Metal Finishing in Wichita, spent the afternoon at the exhibit with a goal of promoting his company and the city.
“We want to get the word out about our company and to entice companies to come to Wichita because we’re so global,” Ball said.
The GWEDC is partnering with Capps Manufacturing, the National Institute for Aviation Research, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Wichita Airport Authority, Assystems, the city of Wichita, Sedgwick County, the Wichita Aero Club and the National Center for Aviation Training at the NBAA show, which runs through Thursday.
The exhibit also serves as an unofficial home base for Wichita-area attendees who don’t have an exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Wichita Aero Club president Dave Franson announced at the reception that the club’s selection committee has chosen former Cessna Aircraft chairman Russ Meyer as the recipient of the Wichita Aero Club Trophy.
The award will be presented at a gala on Jan. 25.
The selection of Meyer, who was the CEO of Cessna for 25 years, surprises no one, Franson said.
“If you were to design a prototype for the kind of person you would want to give an award to, it would be Russ Meyer,” Franson said.
Under his leadership, Cessna designed, developed, built and delivered more business jet aircraft worldwide than any other manufacturer.
Out of the ‘bunker’
As the NBAA’s annual convention got ready to switch into high gear Tuesday morning, NBAA president Ed Bolen predicted a strong show.
The industry has generally followed economic cycles, and the U.S. economy is getting stronger, Bolen said.
“While it’s not been robust, the growth in the United States is stable,” he said. “And that’s good news for our industry.”
The industry has felt as if there has been a “bunker” mentality, Bolen said. But “I think something interesting has happened. A lot of companies have continued to invest in products. This is not where we ate our seed corn.”
New products are coming to market as customers change what they’re looking for.
The No. 1 thing customers want in all categories of business jets, according to Honeywell Aerospace’s new 10-year forecast, is range.
That shows that during the downturn, people have expanded their sales territories, Bolen said. It’s a global marketplace.
“Everybody is drawing the (sales) circle on the map a little bit wider,” he said. “I think it’s having an impact on our industry.’
Demand for business jets is now “off the bottom” Bolen said, although it’s nowhere near the highs before the economic downturn hit five years ago.
Still, “I don’t think people are looking backwards,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Where are we going?’ ”
That’s why it’s so important for the economy to remain stable and why the industry is concerned when there are developments like a government shutdown.
“Companies made changes to find ways to be profitable and survive in a tough market,” Bolen said. “We hope there are no more shocks in the future. It was bad for us.”
With the closure of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Registry Office, planes couldn’t be bought or sold.
“We’re one of the most regulated industries,” he said. “So we felt the pain more than others. Imagine if no one could buy or sell an automobile for 17 days.”
Harrison Ford honored
NBAA honored actor and pilot Harrison Ford with its humanitarian award at the opening general session of the show on Tuesday.
Ford has donated his time, jet and fuel for Haitian relief efforts, to provide flights for cancer patients and to transport athletes and coaches to Special Olympics games. He’s headed up the Young Eagles program, which flies young people to get them interested in aviation, and has become an advocate for aviation in Washington.
“I am humbled, and not just a little amount, by this award,” Ford said.
Wichitan Tom Zwemke did the video honoring Harrison. Zwemke interviewed former Cessna CEO Jack Pelton and former Wichitan Clay Lacy for the video.
Cessna’s China deal
Cessna Aircraft Co. announced what it called a “landmark deal” in which Citation Mustang business jets will be flown for charter services in China for the first time.
Yunnan Ruifeng General Aviation Co. will buy two Mustangs to operate charter flights in China.
The company will offer customers connections to high-altitude airports of about 13,000 feet above sea level.
The first delivery is scheduled for December, with the second Mustang to be delivered in 2014.
“This deal proves again the growing demand in the Chinese business aviation market,” Kevin Wu, Cessna regional vice president of sales for Greater China, said in a statement. “We are pleased that Yunnan Ruifeng General Aviation Company is investing in Citations for performance and features that support their business and customer expectations.”
Yunnan Ruifeng General Aviation Co. was founded in 2011. The company operates a Cessna Grand Caravan for sightseeing flights in southwest China.
Dassault introduced an all-new Dassault Falcon 5X program at the Henderson Executive Airport at this week’s NBAA. A full-size cabin mockup is on display during the show.
The $45 million plane is a large-cabin business jet and is the first clean-sheet Falcon in a decade. First flight is planned for early 2015, with deliveries in mid-2017.
Honda Aircraft Co. said its reached significant milestones on its HondaJet light jet.
Its flight test program is nearing its final phase, and six production HondaJets are on the assembly line at its Greensboro, N.C., headquarters. The program is undergoing full-scale fatigue testing.
The HondaJet is Honda’s first commercial aircraft.