Las Vegas famously touts, “What happens here, stays here.” That normally may be true, but not last week. The happenings at NBAA-BACE 2019 will reverberate through the industry for months to come.

Blue Skies for Green Fuels

The industry’s goal to cut carbon emissions in half by 2050 resonated throughout the convention hall. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by World Fuel Services powered every refueling aircraft departing Henderson Executive Airport (HND).

darren fuller world fuel services saf nbaa-bace 2019
World Fuel Services Vice President Darren Fuller at NBAA-BACE 2019

On Oct. 23, World Fuel Services Vice President Darren Fuller kicked off an expert luncheon forum about sustainability. World Fuel walked its talk by being carbon neutral at the show. It either used sustainable sources to meet its energy requirements at the show, or it covered them by carbon offsets through Europe-based Kinect, part of World Fuel.

World Fuel Services’ booth sported a tree that was donated and planted after the show.

The big takeaway: SAF is proven, safe, high quality and federally approved for use in all aircraft operations. “Engines cannot tell the difference,” said Steve Csonka, executive director, Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI).

saf was a big topic at nbaa-bace 2019
SAF was a major topic at NBAA-BACE 2019.

Later that day, another forum – “I Want My SAF” – had people spilling out of the Innovation Zone to stand and listen from nearby aisles. All shared that customers are embracing the use of SAF and want aviation to be a more environmentally friendly enterprise. Bombardier Aviation President David Coleal urged attendees to exhibit sustainability leadership to the world.

NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Business Aviation announced a Global Sustainability Summit next March in Washington, D.C., to accelerate SAF’s use and availability. They also encouraged people to register their SAF support pledge online. If you haven’t submitted yours, hope you will.

World Fuel Services and Satcom Direct held an in-booth agreement signing to integrate their software. This new relationship gives common customers a total solution to simplify their trip management. “We are always looking for ways to make it easier for customers to transact business no matter where they are, from the office to the cockpit,” says Malcolm Hawkins, senior vice president North American sales, World Fuel Services.

One of our favorite nooks on the convention floor was the always-busy Innovation Zone. You could dream a bit while checking out fanciful, futuristic unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles.

NBAA-BACE 2019 Static Display

Henderson Executive Airport showcased close to 100 of the latest-and-greatest aircraft. From the number of “Private Showing” signs cordoning off airstairs and the doing-business-attitudes of sales directors, it felt like people were there to do more than kick tires.

The newly unveiled Gulfstream G700 touts the tallest, widest and longest cabin in its luxury category. Client FlightSafety International used the show to announce it will provide factory-authorized training for the jet, designing a new full flight simulator for its Savannah, Georgia, facility, adjacent to Gulfstream’s headquarters.

Textron Aviation’s newly certified Citation Longitude features a Garmin G5000 avionics suite with autopilot and optional heads-up display and enhanced vision system; and flight controls by Collins Aerospace. The buzz at the static: it could be the best Citation yet.

We had fun checking out the SyberJet, a light twin that dates back to Sino Swearingen. Its SJ30i features a new interior, upgraded avionic suite and a friendly crew who loved talking about the plane.

This canary-yellow seaplane had colleague Jordan Walker’s number. It would be great for work or play.

Big-Thinking, Bold-Action Speakers

Basketball great Magic Johnson’s keynote supercharged the crowd. He shared how business aircraft have made his entrepreneurial life off the court a winning enterprise. Johnson gave a shout-out from the stage to Clay Lacy in the audience, acknowledging the benefit of owning a plane and having Clay Lacy Aviation manage it. “It’s put years on my life,” Johnson said.

“Jetman” Yves Rossy’s jet-propelled wing was on display in the front lobby throughout the show. A video screen beside it let you watch this Swiss fighter pilot turned human bird occupy the sky alongside jetliners. Seeing him outside your window would make you do a double take, would it not? Rossy took the crowd through his journey, which included many iterations before he hit the magic combination. His inspiration? Wile E. Coyote and the Acme rocket strapped to his back.

captain barrington irving jr received the american spirit award at nbaa-bace 2019

2019 American Spirit Award honoree Barrington Irving Jr. said as a youth, he never would have thought he was smart enough to fly an airplane. Everything changed when a pilot took an interest in him. His mentorship let Irving see he actually had what it takes to fly. And once Irving found out the pay pilots can command, he decided the left seat was for him.

“We don’t have a recruitment issue,” Irving said about the current pilot shortage. “It’s a marketing issue.” He encouraged the industry to “sell the finish line and remember the destination.”

Irving parlayed his 2007 round-the-world, youngest-pilot-ever, solo flight into a platform for encouraging other young people. His example helps spur students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. The crowd didn’t just give him a standing ovation. People leapt to their feet.

General Lloyd “Fig” Newton interviewed Major General Jeannie Flynn, who in 1993 became the U.S. Air Force’s first female combat pilot. She said she put more pressure on herself than superiors ever did. She was determined to not just be as good as her male counterparts, but to be better. That could help explain the three master’s degrees she earned in military operations, national security strategy and business administration.

Flynn’s seen many changes since the early days of flying fighter jets that didn’t even have GPS and now are “incredibly capable.” She laughed about serving as the real-life, superhero, role model for actress Brie Larson’s F-15 fighter-pilot role in the recent “Captain Marvel” movie. That kind of publicity doesn’t hurt in her current role as commander of Air Force recruiting.

Honoring an Icon

It fell to colleague Ashley Bowen Cook, Wichita Aero Club vice chairperson, to announce this year’s trophy winner: former Wichitan Clay Lacy.

(l-r): Ashley Bowen Cook, Greteman Group vice president/brand director, with Clay Lacy and Paul Bowen, former Wichita Aero Club trophy winner.

Lacy started flying when he was only 12 and went on to a storied aviation career. Flying F-86 fighter jets for the California Air National Guard. Flight testing the modified Boeing 377 Stratocruiser used to carry the Saturn rocket booster supporting efforts to put man on the moon. Flying the first Learjet into Van Nuys Airport in 1964 and serving as the Learjet distributor for 11 western states. Founding Clay Lacy Aviation in 1968, making it the West Coast’s first jet charter and executive jet management company. Winning the 1970 Reno Air Race. Developing the Astrovision camera system used in such movies as Top Gun and Armageddon. Flying more than 300 different types of aircraft. Retiring in 1992 from United Airlines after more than 41 years of incident-free flying. Generously giving to the restoration and operation of Wichita’s restored B-29 Superfortress, Doc.

Even closer to home, Lacy served as a reference for our book, Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing. He should know. He was a key part of that history.

Flying Angels

We were among the 600 aviation enthusiasts who attended the Corporate Angel Network (CAN) gala at the Wynn. The silent auction, sponsorships and donations raised more than $510,000. Since CAN’s founding in 1981, it has flown more than 60,000 patients for needed medical treatment. It’s a fabulous event and most-worthy cause.

One for the Books

I haven’t captured everything that happened at the show, but hopefully my highlights convey that NBAA did it again. It brought the industry together. And magic happened.

This column originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 2019 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.