Great Triangle of Trade Shows

San Antonio, Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Vegas—it’s been a great few weeks for aviation conferences.

In February in San Antonio, I spoke for the Fifth Annual Flight School Operators Conference, put on by the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA). FSANA—as reported in a 1997 article in Airport Business—is dedicated to the growth and prosperity of flight schools. Started in Penn. under the enthusiastic leadership of Bob Rockmaker, FSANA has become a national powerhouse in the field. It’s a pleasure to be around those involved in, and excited about, working together on this problem (and opportunity). I enjoyed and admired them.

In March I spoke to the Manitoba Aviation Council in Winnipeg, and what a delightful group of hardworking aviators attended. They also proved conclusively that great hospitality thrives in the frozen North.

Aviation in wintertime Canada—as in Alaska—breeds tough people in a tough business. In both places I’ve sensed that aviation includes much more attention to such basics as starting engines, emergency equipment and keeping things from quitting, freezing and slipping. Up here, one doesn’t just hop in and fly, one works at it. This was my first trip to Winnipeg—even the natives call it “Winter”peg—and it’s a beautiful place.

The next day I had lunch in Minneapolis with a group of legendary pilots. I’d been trying to do that since I was first invited in 1997, and this time it all came together. I was a total neophyte compared to each of them, and you can bet that I wasn’t bragging about my few thousand flight hours. I plan to devote a full column to this group in an upcoming issue.

OK, I’ll go ahead and admit that one night in the frozen North I took the wrong sidewalk and found myself crawling on hands and knees in deep snow, while wearing dress shoes, dress slacks, tie and blazer. You never heard such cussing in your life. If I’d hit my head and passed out, I would’ve died and never been found ‘til the spring thaw.

In late March I spoke at AviationPros Live in Las Vegas. This was a show devoted to the support side of the industry—the people who make flight possible by fueling, maintaining and servicing aircraft. The exhibit hall featured fuel and tow trucks, ground power units, baggage loading conveyors, portable ramps, lights and a jillion other things totally unnoticed by most passengers.

Support includes maintenance technicians, and they held competition all day long in an area that included bleachers with audiences cheering for their team. We all bet our lives on these specialists, and it was gratifying to see them get much deserved attention.

Trade shows are wonderful and I love ‘em. I hope you’ll ask me to speak for your next show.

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