There may be a decidedly different vibe around the world’s largest business aviation gathering this year.
The National Business Aviation Association Convention & Exhibition opens Tuesday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
This year’s show is expected to attract more than 27,000 people and feature more than 1,100 exhibitors and 100 airplanes.
Clouded by lowered business jet delivery predictions this year, job cuts at jet manufacturers – including Wichita’s Textron Aviation, Bombardier Business Aircraft, Embraer and Gulfstream – industry experts think the mood of the three-day show will be in contrast to last year. In 2015, the outlook going into the show was a little brighter, and news about new airplanes – at least Wichita-built ones – was more robust.
“My expectations are subdued,” said business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent.
Subdued in the sense that Vincent and others think this year’s show will lack the bang of new product announcements, specifically those for new planes.
“I haven’t heard or seen any smoke signals suggesting anything earth-shattering,” said Brian Foley, an independent business aviation analyst. “I think it will be kind of a quiet NBAA.”
That’s largely because a number of manufacturers have already announced new jets and are still developing them, close to delivering them or beginning to deliver them. That includes Dassault’s FalconJet 8X, Gulfstream’s G500 and Textron Aviation’s Cessna Citation Longitude – in flight test now – and the large-cabin Hemisphere, slated for first flight in 2019.
“The pipeline is pretty full right now,” Vincent said. “What we see now is a lot of product development.
“I think the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are appropriately throttling their programs.”
But Vincent doesn’t rule out the possibility of aircraft order announcements, even a big one.
“If we see announcements, it’s going to be on the sales side,” he said.
That said, there will be some buzz generated by airplane manufacturers as they provide updates on new jet programs. Specifically, Textron Aviation is expected to talk about the super-midsize Longitude, which made its first flight on Oct. 8 , as well as its progress on the Hemisphere, Cessna’s biggest jet yet and an aircraft that will extend the Citation line into the large-cabin category.
Scott Donnelly, president and CEO of Textron Aviation’s parent company, Textron Inc., said on the company’s third-quarter 2016 conference call with financial analysts last week that the NBAA show also provides a place for it to complete sales of aircraft.
“We expect to see a number of closings come out of that,” Donnelly said on the call.
Bombardier’s focus will likely be on its Global 7000, the biggest and longest-range business jet it has ever made and an airplane the company hopes to get in the air for first flight as early as next month. The Global 7000 will undergo the bulk of its flight test program at the Bombardier Flight Test Center in Wichita.
And Gulfstream is expected to provide updates on its two new jets, the G500 and G600.
The show is important to a lot of other Wichita-area companies as well. About 31 companies and organizations from Andover, Augusta, Derby and Wichita are exhibiting at the show.
Some of those companies are exhibiting in their own booths, while about 20 of them are sharing one organized by the Greater Wichita Partnership, whose theme will be 100 years of aviation manufacturing in Wichita.
Jeff Fluhr, president of the partnership, said in a news release this week that this year’s delegation is its largest to ever attend the show.
One of those companies is general contractor Hutton Construction.
Chairman and CEO Ben Hutton said this is the first time his company has participated in the NBAA. And while it has done building projects for companies such as Cessna, Learjet and Lee Aerospace, finding new business is secondary to the primary reason his company is attending.
“I am passionate about the future of our city,” Hutton said. “The aircraft and general aviation industry is a huge part of that.
“I want to do everything I can to support its growth, the manufacturers and suppliers, and also help sell our city.
“We have some amazing capabilities here, and when the partnership asked if we were interested in going, I said, ‘Yes.’ ”
Who’s going to the NBAA?
In addition to Textron Aviation and Bombardier Business Aircraft, 31 other Wichita-area based companies and organizations will be exhibiting at the 2016 NBAA Convention & Exposition Nov. 1-3 in Orlando, Fla.
135 Air Carrier Management
Aerospace Turbine Rotables
Air Capital Interiors
Aircraft Interior Products
Bodycote Thermal Processing
C.E. Machine Co.
Computer Training Systems
Greater Wichita Partnership
Image Resources Group
Mid Continent Controls
Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics
National Center for Aviation Training
National Institute for Aviation Research
Professional Engineering Consultants
SouthWind Global Aviation
True Blue Power
Wichita Aero Club
Wichita Airport Authority
Source: National Business Aviation Association
Reporting from Orlando
Wichita Eagle aviation reporter Jerry Siebenmark is covering the National Business Aviation Association Convention from Orlando. Follow his updates on Kansas.com, on Twitter by following @jsiebenmark and on Facebook at facebook.com/ICTaviation.