About 10 percent of the more than 1,100 companies exhibiting at the National Business Aviation Association’s 2007 annual convention are internationally based, according to a list of companies on the NBAA’s Web site.

The convention, held Sept. 25-27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, had drawn more than 31,000 registered visitors at the end of its second day.

The substantial percentage of exhibitors from countries abroad demonstrates business aviation’s increase in popularity worldwide, but a large number of international registrants better reveals the conference’s global impact.

“It may be…that U.S. companies that come to the convention find that they get global exposure because of people coming from overseas to learn about business aviation,” Dan Hubbard, the NBAA’s vice president for communications, told GlobalAtlanta.

And what better place for international people to learn about business aviation than at its mecca: the NBAA convention, a veritable wonderland of innovations to make the business aviator’s flying experience more comfortable, convenient or cost-effective.

The 8,000-member NBAA rotates its annual convention among the few cities that have the infrastructure to meet its demanding criteria–a million square feet of floor space, local airports available to show more than 100 aircraft and a hospitality industry “robust” enough to house 30,000-plus, Mr. Hubbard said.

At the congress center in Atlanta, blue-carpeted exhibit halls were like an aviation supermarket, with giant orange signs hanging along the main thoroughfare, marking aisles navigated by businesspeople who seemed to be enjoying the carnival atmosphere of the event.

The exhibitors went to great lengths to draw attention from the attendees, the bigger companies competing with the more ambitious exhibits. They built massive, light-laden displays with actual airplane cabins that attendees could tour. Some exhibits had bars and restaurants boasting hearty spreads of food. Robots roamed the floor and pretty women in black cocktail dresses were stationed at casino tables. One exhibit even drew in visitors by offering them a chance to play and win the Nintendo Wii video game system.

Honda Aircraft Company Inc.’s exhibit, touting the beginning of production of the long-awaited Honda Jet, captivated audiences with tall panels of blue lights and a rotating model of the jet at the center of the exhibit, positioned to look like it was floating on clouds of steam wafting up from a smoke machine below.

“If Honda comes up with a jet, then you know the industry’s growing,” said Andrew Lynch, marketing director for Lynch Dynamics Inc., a branch of Ontario, Canada-based Lynch Group. The Lynch Group, which manufactures and designs hydraulic machine components, recently began expanding into the aviation industry.
“We are fairly new to the aviation industry, but we’re pushing into it because it’s such a growing market,” said Mr. Lynch, whose father, Ernie, is the president of Lynch Dynamics.

The company has been building relationships with companies in Georgia and is targeting all sectors of the aviation industry. Mr. Lynch said that the presence of airplane parts manufacturing plants in Georgia makes the state attractive to his company, which offers a selection of standard parts but also has a design team to customize for large plants like Pratt & Whitney in Columbus.

Lynch Dynamics represents the many international companies who weren’t counted in the NBAA Web site’s statistics. It was one of 17 companies distributing information in one place: the Ontario Aerospace Pavilion, booth No.4559.

The presence of companies from other parts of the world also signified the growing market for business aviation in other countries.

Mr. Hubbard cited India, Russia and Brazil as emerging markets, and he mentioned the Asian region as one that is opening up.

Hawker Pacific PTY Ltd., a Sydney-based company that manages, houses and sells aircraft, also saw the Asian trend. Allied in a joint venture with the Shanghai Airport Authority, Hawker will build and maintain the second fixed-base operations, or FBO, center in China. The building will be a lavish facility where business aviators can park their jets in hangars and have customs taken care of while they drink a cup of coffee, according to Douglas Henry, Hawker’s general manager for FBOs.

According to Mr. Henry, Delta Air Lines Inc.’s newly approved flight to Shanghai proves his company is making the right decision by getting in early on the FBO market in Asia.

“We’re anticipating that in the next five to 10 years, a lot of restrictions will be lifted,” Mr. Henry told GlobalAtlanta. “Delta now getting rights, that’s the government trying to relax things.”

Coincidentally, officials from the Shanghai Airport Authority and Hawker were in Atlanta when Delta announced that it had received approval for the flight from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport officials invited the board members from the Shanghai authority to the announcement.

At the end of day two, the convention ranked as the second most heavily attended event in the NBAA’s 60-year history, and the event ended up attracting more than 32,000 attendees, Mr. Hubbard said.

Georgia is celebrating its 100th year of powered flight this year, and the milestone was commemorated at the convention.
Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
NBAA – Dan Hubbard, vice president, communications 202.783.9360