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Navigating Trade Show Pileups

PileUp-Grphx-01_02Back-to-back trade shows don’t just exhaust your team and resources. They wear out your customers, too. In November, the Dubai Airshow runs 8–12 with the NBAA convention following in Vegas the very next week 17, 18 and 19. The Dubai Airshow is expecting to draw over  65,000 trade visitors and over 1,100 exhibitors. NBAA2015 expects to draw 26,000 aviation enthusiasts and 1,000 exhibitors. Here are a few thoughts on how to maximize the experience. So you live to tell about it.

Plan In Advance

Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Wrap up your press releases well in advance and issue them under an embargo. This lessens last-minute scrambling on your part and gives media more time to develop the story. Same goes for any collateral. Do not stress your team by pushing print production to just before the show – and busting your budget with rush charges. If you have fantasies of wrapping up some things during show downtimes, burst that bubble. Unforeseen events and interruptions will pop up. And, if by some chance you do get a bit of downtime, use it as that. Downtime. Give yourself a break. Tradeshows

Automate All Possible

Issue evites to show and media events that enable the recipient to respond real time any time – without direct interaction with your team. Promotions can get complicated. Simplify, simplify, simplify. And, if you can, make the transaction completely doable from beginning to end online.

PileUp-Grphx-03Divide and Conquer

If at all possible send different team members to different shows. Even if it means each show is slightly understaffed, it’s better. Fresh and energized beat jet-lagged and ragged any day.

Choose Wisely

Really look at your resources and steel yourself to make the hard, but needed decisions. Do you really need to hold that extra press conference? Are you sure you need to schedule meetings for every single hour of the show? Consider how can you deliver impact and make your presence known without overextending your budget and your people. Less can be more.

Leverage Your Home Team

Delegate whatever you possibly can to the folks back at the home office. They’re happy to help, right? Have them update contracts, adjust press releases, issue social media posts, you name it.

Walk Fingers to Save Feet PileUp-Grphx-02

Extend your impact with social media. Spend less time running all over the convention floor and more time posting on social media (tagging tradeshow handles – @DubaiAirshow – and using appropriate hashtags, of course – #DAS15). Schedule what posts you can in advance. Shoot post points to folks back home and let them do the actual company posting. Clearly delegate responsibilities. A designated onsite team member who can take photos, videos and do some posting takes pressure off others and ensures it gets done. Designating someone at your home base to be responsible for the bulk of your social media, frees you to focus on face-to-face interactions.

Remember Why You’re There

At every turn, make decisions that put people first. Which, after all, ought to be a key show objective. Talking to your tribe. And growing it.

This column ran in the September 24 issue of Bluesky Business Aviation News.

Legends Race at Reno

You have to love an event dedicated to perpetuating the world’s most thrilling aviation experiences: high-speed air races. And the passion that fuels it. Roughly 2,500 volunteers help pull off the National Championship Air Races at Reno. Those volunteers must be in high gear now with the race fast approaching.

From September 16-20, Stead Airport just north of Reno will be the place to be. As it has been since the race began in 1964.

Over the years, aviation greats such as Bob Hoover, Clay Lacy and Steve Hinton Sr. have participated.

Fighting for Survival

In spite of that rich history, many wondered whether the Reno Air Races, dubbed “the world’s fastest motor sport,” would come back after the 2011 crash that took the life of pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 spectators. My dad, aviation photographer Paul Bowen, was at the race and witnessed the tragedy and is one of the many who’ve gone back and supported the event.

“The air races themselves picked right back up without a hitch. It’s just as big a thrill today as it’s always been,” Bowen says. “The crowds have been building back nicely.”

Crowds pack the stands at Stead Airport
Crowds pack the stands each September at Stead Airport to watch the high-speed air races. Photo: Paul Bowen.

The Reno Air Racing Association confirms that the race has had its challenges since even before 2011 to attract sufficient crowds. Over the last couple of years, ticket sales have come very close to where they were before the recession. Growing overall attendance is still a goal. In June, Chairman of the Board of Directors John Agather announced that this year would be pivotal for the race, “Attendance is a key factor for our success.”

Reno Air Race CEO Mike Crowell says they’re ramping up their efforts to get more people from the Reno community – especially younger people.

“We’re creating educational experiences for school-age kids,” he says, “and we plan to bring in as many as 3,500 students on field trips. We think once they’ve experienced this super-charged atmosphere, they’ll be wanting to come back – year after year.”

Reno Air Races champion Steven Hinton Jr.
Current Reno Air Races unlimited gold champion Steven Hinton Jr. Photo: Paul Bowen

Aiming for a Younger Crowd

In an effort to increase attendance, event organizers hope to appeal to a broader audience. Those who attend with historical and military interests will enjoy the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Tora, Tora, Tora Airshow. For the millennials, the overall adrenaline rush of the race plus the addition of the Breitling Jet Team from Switzerland, the largest professional civilian jet formation team.

These days, too, the action has shifted to a new generation. Hinton Sr. held the world speed record for 10 years and set records at Reno. Now his son, Steven Hinton Jr., is the pilot to beat. Junior became the youngest ever to win the Reno unlimited-class championship race at age 22 in 2009 and has won it multiple times since.

The finale often comes down to an intense battle among impressive aircraft such as Voodoo, flown by Hinton Jr.; Rod Lewis’ Rare Bear, flown by Stewart Dawson; and Strega, flown by former astronaut Hoot Gibson. Each aircraft in the unlimited-class championship is a sight to behold and a power to be reckoned with.

Lend Your Support

Aviation owes more than can be calculated to the early air races, which brought out families and fanatics alike and spurred competitive innovators the world over to work at building better, ever-faster aircraft. Those old races had nothing on Reno. It’s faster and every bit as breathtaking. Go if you can. We owe it to the next generation to ensure the survival of this perfect mix of old-time hair-raising aero-competition and state-of-the-art inspiration.

The 52nd Annual National Championship Air Races will be held September 16-20, 2015 at Reno Stead Airport. For more information, visit

This column ran in the September 10 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News. 

25 Years and Ready to Fly

You might think that the Air Capital would have one of the most stellar aviation museums in the world. Well, not yet, but things are definitely looking up.

Lovers of aviation and its history gathered at the Kansas Aviation Museum on August 27 to celebrate what’s been accomplished in its 25-year history and to look ahead.

First, a Brief Look Back

In 1990, the museum was founded and housed in what had once served as the Wichita Municipal Airport. The once-grand terminal looked bound for demolition. The beautiful open atrium had been covered up with a second-story floor. There was no central heating or air conditioning. No elevator. Broken windows. A leaky roof. Pigeons roosted inside the building.

Wichita’s art deco municipal airport in 1950.
Wichita’s art deco municipal airport, shown here in 1950. Now home to the Kansas Aviation Museum.

An Art Deco Masterpiece

The building had proud beginnings. In the mid-’20s, Wichita dreamed of an airport to match the city’s stature as the Air Capital of the World. Charles Lindbergh consulted on the airport’s design. He was among those touting the city as an attractive stopover for

The first DC-3’s in March 1937
The arrival of the first DC-3’s in March 1937 at the Wichita Air Terminal.

transcontinental flights, which, of course, couldn’t yet fly coast-to-coast nonstop.


Once opened in 1935, the terminal became the face of Wichita. Wiley Post, Howard Hughes, Kansas’ own Amelia Earhart and many other celebrities crossed the ramp, admired the stylized art deco terminal and dined in its restaurant. It’s said that Fred Astaire once entertained fellow passengers by dancing in the atrium while awaiting a flight.

During the 1940s, the airport was one of the nation’s busiest, with a takeoff or landing every 90 seconds. In 1953, that changed when Wichita built a modern municipal airport on the other side of town. Airport operations moved to west Wichita and for the next 30 years the old terminal was used by the United States Air Force and Kansas Air National Guard. Then, no longer needed, the doors were locked and the building abandoned.

Many Visions, But All of Them Different

Many people carried the torch for a world-class aviation museum housed in the old municipal airport – chief among them, the Wichita

Ed Sykes
Ed Sykes, WAHA former president and Kansas Aviation Museum forever board member.

Aeronautical Historical Association (WAHA). Unfortunately, Wichita’s major aircraft manufacturers each seemed to have distinctly and vastly different ideas of where an aviation museum ought to be and the role it should serve. Big personalities with equally big agendas resulted in little traction for a museum. But dedicated volunteers kept inching plans forward, slowing gaining altitude. A deal was made with the city to rent the former terminal building for a dollar a year. In 1990, the museum opened.

Fast Forward to Today25th anniversary celebration crowd

At the 25th anniversary celebration, WAHA former president and Kansas Aviation Museum forever board member Ed Sykes credited Ron Ryan, retired owner and president of Ryan International Airlines, as the individual who has done the most for the museum. Ryan took the opportunity to zing back to the crowd, “We need a dollar for next year’s rent!” Dollars started flying and soon Sykes had received enough for 25 years’ rent.

There’s much to celebrate. Museum staff, supporters and volunteers have fixed those windows and ceiling and ripped out the floor that closed in the atrium. In recent years, they’ve found more receptive ears to donation requests. They’ve added that much needed elevator and central heating and cooling; renovated thousands of square feet of exhibit, archive and meeting space; created scores of hands-on displays; retired a quarter-million dollars of debt; secured millions in grants and contributions; and so much more.

New Leadership Has the Right Stuff

Daniel Bateman joined as executive director in May 2015. He previously served as executive director for Spaceport Sheboygan in Wisconsin. The self-professed aviation aficionado is having a coming home of sorts. He began his career at the Kansas Cosmosphere in nearby Hutchinson. Board members and staff alike talk about the energy, experience and know-how Bateman brings to his role.

 Jodine Elwick
In addition to celebrating the museum’s 25th anniversary, the event also recognized the 80th anniversary of the original Wichita Air Terminal building. Kansas Aviation Executive Board Member and long-time supporter Jodine Elwick co-sponsored the event with UMB bank. Elwick cut the ribbon during the rededication ceremony.

“Housing the Kansas Aviation Museum and Aviation Hall of Fame is a large responsibility, being in the Air Capital of the World,” says Bateman. “However having the opportunity to do so within such a historic building makes the job so much easier. To know that our guests Kansas Aviation Museum Logoare able to walk in the original airport terminal in Wichita makes the experience so much greater. The building really is the greatest artifact for the Kansas Aviation Museum.”

An Increasing Rate of Climb

Good things are happening at the Kansas Aviation Museum. You can get up-close-and-personal with historic, one-of-a-kind aircraft. Tap into vast archives of records, schematics, books, photos and memorabilia. Walk the Hall of Fame.

Visit the museum in southeast Wichita (3350 S. George Washington Blvd.) or online at

This column ran in the September 3 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.