ORLANDO — Not long after Katrina made a cesspool of New Orleans, it became apparent that the industry would not be meeting there as planned for this November's annual convention hosted by the National Business Aviation Association. Some 30,000 aviation professionals would have to find somewhere else to go; in this case, Orlando. Led by Showalter Flying Service, which has handled three NBAA Static Displays — a core component of the show — Orlando's Executive Airport stands prepared to handle the event, airside.
Kim Showalter relates the experience. “The Hurricane hit on a Monday and by Wednesday we were brainstorming internally, recognizing that they only had certain places they could go.
“Before we had even heard from NBAA, we had talked to the Convention Center to see what windows they had open. We had talked with our rental car company [Enterprise], and asked if they could be available with 400 cars in this sort of timeframe. Their response was, ‘If we have to go to the auto auction and buy them, you'll have them.’
“We talked to Phillips and had their area rep here after the storm. They told us they couldn't tell us anything about the price by then, but supply was no problem. “So when Kathleen [Hull, who heads the NBAA convention] called me at home one evening and said they were looking at alternatives, I was able to tell her, ‘We’re a go.’ “The aviation authority was immediately on board.”
The dates finally set on, November 9-11, are a week earlier than the scheduled New Orleans event. According to Showalter, it was the unavailability of enough hotel rooms for that week that caused the rescheduling.
According to NBAA, the number of attendees pre-registered for the Orlando show is pacing 1,000 ahead of 2004; exhibit spaces are selling at a 5 percent increase.
The static display, which is expected to host as many as 150 aircraft (excluding transients) from manufacturers, repair stations, et al., will be located at Orlando Executive. The downtown airport hosts two fixed base operators, Showalter and Sheltair, as well as ample airfield/parking space.
Explains Showalter, “We actually give up about a million square feet of our leasehold to NBAA. We lease it to them. The aviation authority, in kind, allows us to use a piece of property just east of us that is similar in size. And Sheltair has all its ramp space available.”
How it Works
As one would expect, handling the static along with the significant increase in transient aircraft, brings with it challenges, and an expectation of coordination. They’ve done this here before.
“Aircraft come into the airport and choose which FBO they'd like to receive services from,” explains Showalter. “If they choose us, we pull them onto the front ramp. We suggest to everyone that we fuel them before they go into the static display, because there is no time to fuel them when we're pulling them out and they all want to leave.
“We put the aircraft into a staging area that we control before putting them in the static display, based on where their space is and their arrival time.
“If someone chooses to go to Sheltair, they taxi there, hopefully get their fuel, make arrangements for catering and whatever they need, and Sheltair will pull the aircraft over here and drop it off. We pick it up and put it in the staging area. They give us a list of their customers and their aircraft.”