Featured Image: Aviation photographer and former Wichita Aero Club trophy winner Paul Bowen shakes hands with 2018 winner Yingling Aviation CEO Lynn Nichols.
Our base in the Air Capital led us to aviation. But it’s the people who tie us to this unique industry. Jet-setting entrepreneurs turning ideas into deals. Pilots whose hands twitch when too long from the yoke. Technicians who thrive on the precision required by every aircraft interaction. Sales directors who spout the math that makes an aircraft work on a balance sheet, but then tell you the real reason you gotta have that jet, that prop, that helicopter. Analysts who digest data like dinner.
Nothing reminds us of this more than our annual pilgrimage to the Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE). For us, it’s a family reunion made richer by introductions to new members.
We hitched our 15th ride with longtime private aviation user and advocate Jack DeBoer. As we landed at McCarran International, we taxied past Mandalay Bay. There, only nine days earlier, a killer claimed the lives of 58 people and injured almost 500 others. Throughout the show, we were touched by visual and verbal expressions of sympathy and support. Again, this is a convention that promotes hardware and services, but at its heart, it’s about people. How they live. How they interact. How they succeed.
Speakers That Educate and Elevate
We started the conference with JETNETiQ’s always insightful State of the Market briefing. Paul Cardarelli and Rollie Vincent led us through a series of charts and graphs that answered the oft-heard questions, “My god, what’s happening?” Cardarelli said there is a new normal and that realization is starting to settle in. Recovery’s being impeded not just by a financial gap in aircraft pricing, Vincent said, but by an expectation gap. Dassault Falcon was called out as an example of a manufacturer that’s showing great production discipline.
Once again NBAA inspired attendees with such lofty speakers as Apollo 13 Captain Jim Lovell and astronaut brothers Mark and Scott Kelly. The Kellys are the world’s only twin space travelers. Their participation in the NASA Twins Study, to see how bodies react long term to zero gravity, could help us to someday get to Mars.
Thirty-year-old Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to solo a single-engine aircraft around the world, encouraged potential aviators. She just completed her 24,800-nm journey on October 4. Safety forums hit on such key issues as loss of control in flight, fitness for duty and ground-handling safety.
NBAA CEO Ed Bolen presented the Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership to general aviation’s everyday heroes, flying critical relief missions to areas affected by hurricanes and earthquakes.
A simple cocktail party in the Dassault Falcon booth for the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) had an outsized impact. This group of connection-minded women welcomed all who came, quickly engaging every woman – newbies and veterans – in robust conversations about their careers and this seize-the-day industry. Everyone from Charlie Bravo Aviation CEO René Banglesdorf to First Republic Bank Senior Analyst Shelley Svoren left us feeling uplifted.
Doing Good and Celebrating Good
Auctioneer Spanky Assiter kept bids rising skyward at the Corporate Angel Network charity event. The live and silent auctions helped bring the amount raised up to $435,000. The crowd came ready to give.
Among the attendees we were privileged to meet was Gen. “Fig” Newton, who flew 269 combat missions and for four years with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. He’s one of the notable VIPs strongly opposing air traffic control (ATC) privatization.
We especially enjoyed the Air Capital gathering to announce the Wichita Aero Club’s 2018 trophy winner. The last one went to my father, aviation photographer Paul Bowen. This time, it goes to Yingling Aviation CEO Lynn Nichols. Yingling, a well-known fixed-base operator, is the world’s largest Cessna parts supplier. Among his many accomplishments: being part of the group responsible for restoring and finding a home for Doc, a Wichita-built B-29 Superfortress.
100,000+ Steps, But Who’s Counting?
We took a smaller contingent than some years, preferring to stay nimble (i.e., fit in one Uber or taxi). Between the four of us, during the three-day show we calculated we took 109,420 steps, visited with six clients, met with 34 prospective ones, and talked for 36 hours.
Perhaps most impressively, we managed to hit five successive parties. That made Day Three at Henderson Executive Airport’s impressive static display a welcome change of pace. Not only do we always welcome the chance to get up close and personal with aircraft, the static’s frequent and free water stations put a bounce back in our steps. Hydration. It’s key.