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NBAA Moves on with Business After a Difficult Year
Contributed by: David Gelles, Staff Writer

September 15, 2002

Orlando - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) held its 55th annual convention here in Orlando for the three days surrounding and including September 11.

A record 27,785 attendees packed the Orange County Convention Center to trade ideas, view new products, and secure deals for the coming business year. 1,011 exhibitors, including industry standards like Cessna and Air BP, were spread out over 900,000 square feet of exhibit space. Nearby, at the Orlando Executive Airport, 151 aircraft composed the Static Display, including six models never before seen at an air-show.

With enthusiasm at a fever pitch, and business bustling in every corner of the Convention Center, this yearŐs show took place in direct and welcome contrast to last year's curtailed and depressed Convention in New Orleans, which had to be rescheduled after the September 11th attacks.

Even on the 11th, as big-screen TVs broadcast the memorial services, convention-goers would simply pause for a few moments of reflection, then return to business. As the show got underway, NBAA President Jack Olcott said, "I'm very encouraged by the numbers coming in. This reflects the increased demand for business aviation since 9/11, despite the downturn in the economy."

In fact, the business aircraft industry, along with the entire aviation industry, is suffering as part of the larger economic recession. Annual aircraft deliveries are flat and expected to fall in the coming fiscal year, and overall, luxury travel is being criticized as superfluous.

However, the current dip comes after an era of outrageous highs, during which the industry's annual market value topped $10 billion for three consecutive years ('99-'01).

Other advantages the business aviation industry enjoys include the safety and reliability of private travel, advances in new technologies that are making private travel at once cheaper and more luxurious, and a commercial airline industry in shambles.

Spearheading the industry advances were some of the most familiar names in business aviation. Honeywell and Jeppesen announced a new partnership that will allow Jeppesen charts to be displayed on full-color, paperless in-cockpit displays. As well as streamlining the pilot's experience, this advance paves the way for the future integration of in-cockpit displays of real-time ground traffic.

In response to corporations' curtailed budgets, several jet manufacturers promoted cheaper planes they hope will attract new buyers. Cessna stole the show with the unveiling of the only two previously-unseen jets at the convention, the brand new Mustang, and the redeveloped CJ3. The Mustang, secretly in development for nearly six years, is a six-passenger twinjet with flight speeds estimated at 340 knots at FL 410. Priced at $2.295 million, it being marketed to the entry-level flyer. Other small jets on display included the Eclipse, which achieved first-flight last month, the Maverick, which requires about a month's worth of assembly, and the prototype Javelin, a two-seater modeled after a fighter-jet.

Technological highlights included CTT's humidification systems, which control cabin atmosphere, a host of electronic in-cockpit displays streaming real-time charts, weather, and news, and Heads-Up Technology's system that will offer affordable and extensive in-flight entertainment options.

As the show wound down, Mr. Olcott reflected on the convention's success. "Exhibitors reported brisk activity both on the Show floor and at the Static Display, with an impressive number of orders for new aircraft. The record number of Seminars and Informational Sessions were very well-attended, particularly those emphasizing security issues."

By week's end the booths were coming down and the aircraft at the Static Display were flying away. The date was Friday the 13th, but no one leaving the convention felt anything but lucky to be part of an industry with such a clearly bright future.

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