GWEDC joins planemakers at show

Wichita's aircraft manufacturers are heading to England to showcase their products at next week's Farnborough International Airshow.

They will be joined by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, which will be promoting the thousands of available skilled workers in the area at its trade show exhibit in Farnborough, England.

The GWEDC will be talking to companies around the world, said Vicki Pratt Gerbino, president of the coalition, promoting the "depth and breadth of the aviation-aerospace knowledge and skill set in this community."

Kansas employs 38,000 people in the aviation industry. But the down economy has taken its toll.

"That means that your company has the opportunity to tap into a skilled work force of 10,000 now available," according to marketing information the GWEDC will hand out. "Now, more than any other time, we can provide you the resources you need to grow and expand your USA footprint."

No one wants to talk about unemployment, Gerbino said. And, "I'm not trying to put lipstick on a pig. It is still a pig."

But "you can sell what you do have — and that's skilled labor," she said.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson will be at GWEDC's exhibit on Tuesday. The show, held every two years, runs Monday through Thursday.

The 2008 show drew 132,600 trade visitors, 153,000 public visitors and 1,393 exhibitors. Companies announced $88.7 billion worth of business.

For the first time in Europe, Boeing will show off its new 787 Dreamliner. It lands on Sunday.

Spirit AeroSystems will have a chalet and a booth and will host meetings with customers and suppliers in five meeting rooms.

"Farnborough is the premier opportunity to meet with the high-level executives of our key customers," said Spirit spokeswoman Debbie Gann. "It's like having everybody in the right place at the right time. It's a scheduling challenge, but you can get a lot of business done in a really short amount of time."

Wichita business aircraft manufacturers will also have a presence at the show, although the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition held annually in Geneva is the biggest business jet show in Europe.

Cessna Aircraft will have five aircraft on display at the Textron exhibit. Textron is Cessna's parent company.

Hawker Beechcraft will highlight its military trainers and special-mission aircraft, including its AT-6, T-6, three variants of its King Air turboprops and a Hawker 4000 business jet.

The venue has traditionally been a good one for the company's government business and its special mission customers, the company said.

Bombardier Aerospace is bringing four aircraft, including its Wichita-built Learjet 60XR.

"Things are picking up so we're expecting to do a lot of business" at the show, said spokeswoman Danielle Boudreau

"We have a lot of customers scheduled to come see us at the show," she said. "It's a very important place to meet people."