(Atlanta) The National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) 63rd Annual Meeting and Convention has concluded with announcements of new aircraft designs, new orders and a strong message of advocacy for the embattled industry.
This year's event was a welcome relief to nearly 25,000 attendees, following a two year downturn and withering attacks from politicians.
According to NBAA, not only was attendance up about five percent over last year, exhibitors grew to 1,093 - an increase over 2009, and the static display space was sold out.
The sold out status of the static is actually a mixed message, observers say.
On one hand the number of aircraft on display is an indication that sellers believe there are buyers for their new and used aircraft.
On the other, large numbers of aircraft for sale can be a byproduct of the number of individuals and corporations leaving business aviation and shuttering flight departments.
Prices on most used aircraft may be off their historic lows, but are still severely depressed. Many owners have delayed selling aircraft in the hope that values would increase.
Manufacturers of many new aircraft say it has been challenging to attract buyers, particularly with the glut of low-cost, late model used aircraft on the market.
It is also more difficult to get financing for aircraft purchases and credit terms are much tougher for even the most financially pristine buyers.
Business Aviation Contributions Highlighted
NBAA stressed several positive messages about the industry at the gathering, including:
- Heavy promotion of the group's No Plane, No Gain effort. Featuring golfer Arnold Palmer, legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong and other prominent business aviation personalities, the campaign strives to tell value of business aviation among all sectors of the economy, including owners of small businesses in America's Heartland.
- Salute to business aviation operators who contriubuted aircraft and manpower to the rescue effort in Haiti
- NBAA/CAN Charity Benefit raised more than $200,000 for the Corporate Angel Network, which arranges flights on corporate jets for cancer patients.
- NBAA Careers in Business Aviation day for for middle school, high school and college students on the final day of the convention
Downturn Began with Automakers
Many at the convention believe there is still more bad news for the industry to come.
Rumors circulated at the convention of big layoffs by year-end, and industry message boards told of more flight department closings in the past week.
Although banks and world economies have been on the brink of collapse during the recession, business aviation experts still blame much of their trouble on Detroit's big three carmakers.
When the chief executives of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors flew to Washington seeking a twenty-five billion dollar bailout in three seperate corporate jets, public and political sentiment turned against business aviation in a big way.
Instead of defending the aircraft, the executives were at a loss for words and promptly closed their flight departments, putting aircraft up for sale and laying off flight department personnel.
Politicians and the media may have gone on to other issues, but for business aviation, the damage and resentment linger.
The next big test of the health of business aviation is scheduled for December 7 - 9 in Dubai at the bi-annual Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show.