Palm Springs, Calif. — More than 1,650 avionics shop owners, managers and technicians, as well as manufacturers of avionics, instruments, airframe and test equipment, converged on Palm Springs, Calif., for the 49th annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show from April 19-22.
In addition to the three-day AEA Trade Show, which featured more than 140 exhibitors and 225 booth spaces, the Aircraft Electronics Association offered more than 75 hours of training opportunities during the four-day convention, and hundreds of AEA Training Certification forms were completed throughout the week.
The AEA Convention began April 19 with all-day Fast Trak sessions, ranging from in-depth technical sessions, such as "Communicating Human Factors Information in a Clear and Usable Manner" with Dr. Bill Johnson of the FAA and "Repair Station Training Program: Management" with Ric Peri of the AEA, to the new Business Management Series, which included "Aviation Customer Service and Communication" with David Benoff of Global Jet Services and "Marketing Fundamentals" with Dr. Beth Hagan of Associates in Entrepreneurship Education.
On April 21, the annual Rise & Shine Regulatory Roundtable, presented by Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs, provided a review and update of the latest regulatory issues affecting technicians and repair stations.
A highlight every year at the annual convention is the "New Products" session, and this year was no exception with 32 new products introduced by 32 different companies. The June issue of Avionics News will feature information on each of the new products introduced during the AEA International Convention.
AEA Chairman Michael O’Leary welcomed the hundreds of convention attendees to the show during the AEA International Convention Opening Ceremonies on April 20, at the Wyndham Hotel in Palm Springs. In addition, AEA President Paula Derks spoke on the state of the industry and encouraged individuals to contact their government representatives to express concerns regarding user fees for the general aviation industry.
Derks also honored Rachel Ronan, Avionics News editor and AEA creative director, with a special recognition during the ceremonies. Ronan was lauded for her many months of work in creating the AN510 Gallery, a special exhibit that was part of the AEA Trade Show in the Palm Springs Convention Center. The AN510 Gallery featured full-size replicas of each of the Avionics News magazine's 510 issues in which visitors would walk through the display showcasing the history of the association and the magazine.
Scholarship Awards and Avionics Training Excellence winners also were announced during the Opening Ceremonies, which featured Barry Schiff, retired Lockheed 1011 captain for TWA and AOPA Pilot columnist, as the keynote speaker.
One of the ceremony's highlights was the presentation of the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award, which was given to John Winter of Mid-Continent Instruments for his many contributions to the avionics industry throughout the years.
Tom Greer of Southern Avionics, the 2005 AEA Member of the Year, and representatives from EDMO Distributors, 2005 Associate Member of the Year, cut the ribbon to officially open the AEA Trade Show exhibit hall on April 21 — and the crowds followed. In conjunction with the trade show, the AEA Educational Foundation hosted its annual Silent Auction, which raised nearly $25,000 for the foundation's scholarship awards program, according to Mike Adamson, AEA director of training and education.
FORUMS, TRAINING & AWARDS
The slate for April 21 offered more than four hours of Regulatory Forums, moderated by Ric Peri. The first forum investigated the FAA’s new "Electronic Form 337" initiative. Later this year, the FAA will roll out nationwide the electronic processing and recordkeeping of its Form 377, documenting major repairs and major alterations. This forum, one of the FAA's first with industry on this initiative, educated AEA member companies on the management and handling of this new form.
The second forum panel, "Leadership Through Innovation: The FAA's Role in Promoting Safety Through Technology," featured Peter Skaves of the FAA’s avionics systems branch; Susan Gardner, manager of the Alaskan CAPSTONE project; Wes Ryan of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate; and Tom Salat of SATNAV OIT, speaking on WAAS implementation. Advanced technology is offering more equipment that puts real-time information into the cockpit of general aviation aircraft, and the panel discussed the FAA initiatives to promote the installation of this equipment in today's aircraft.
Paul Fiduccia, president of the Small Aircraft Manufacturers Association, facilitated another panel forum, "Technically Advanced Aircraft." This panel featured Ian Bentley of Cirrus Aircraft; David McRae of Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing; and Bill Mermelstein of Adam Aircraft. Today's Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) takes the integrated avionics suit to the next level by integrating the avionics into the entire aircraft operations. This panel discussed the challenges associated with the maintenance, repair and alteration of TAA.
Nick Sabatini, FAA's associate administrator for aviation safety, wrapped up the forums. Sabatini discussed the advances in avionics and navigation in U.S. airspace. He also shared his vision of responsibility and accountability for the FAA and its progress toward quality and standardization through the ISO 9001 certification of FAA divisions and offices.
Sabatini also received the AEA Industry Partnership Award during the AEA Annual Awards Luncheon on April 21.
In addition to honoring Sabatini, the Aircraft Electronics Association also announced the winners of two of the convention's most coveted awards during the AEA Annual Awards Luncheon. Ray McDonald of Pacific Southwest Instruments was named the 2006 AEA Member of the Year, and Sandel Avionics was named the 2006 AEA Associate Member of the Year.
On the last day of the convention, April 22, AEA presented 28 Technical Training Workshops on new equipment installations, troubleshooting, sales techniques, service and repair. Not only did the workshops provide valuable information to technicians, they also qualify as FAA-recognized training hours toward the Aviation Maintenance Training Awards Program.
This year's Technical Training Workshops were presented by Aero-Flex, AirCell, Airtechnics, Aspen Avionics, Avidyne, Chelton Flight Systems, Chelton Inc., Comant Industries, Crossbow Technology, Global Jet Services, Honeywell, Honeywell–Cabin Systems, International Com-munications Group, Mobile Electronics, Nav-Aids Ltd., Paperless Cockpit, Revue Thommen AG Switzerland, Rosen Aviation, Sandel Avionics, Shadin Avionics, S-TEC, Trans-Cal Industries, and Universal Avionics Corp.
The Aircraft Electronics Association staff already has begun to prepare for next year's show, which will mark the 50th annual AEA convention. The 50th anniversary AEA International Convention & Trade Show will take place from March 28-31, at the Reno Hilton in Reno, Nev.
Debra McFarland, AEA vice president, said a number of special events and activities are planned for the 50th anniversary celebration. Recognition also will be given to all past AEA award winners, including those who have been honored as Members of the Year since 1964, the year the award was first given out.
The AEA also has announced the dates and locations of the annual convention through 2011, including:
• 2008: Washington, D.C., from April 23-26, at the Gaylord National.
• 2009: Dallas, Texas, from April 1-4, at the Gaylord Texan.
• 2010: Orlando, Fla., from April 7-10, at the Gaylord Palm.
• 2011: Reno, Nev., from March 30-April 2, at the Reno Hilton.
The Aircraft Electronics Association represents nearly 1,300 aviation businesses, including repair stations that specialize in maintenance, repair and installation of avionics and electronic systems in general aviation aircraft. AEA membership also includes manufacturers of avionics equipment, instrument repair facilities, instrument manufacturers, airframe manufacturers, test equipment manufacturers, major distributors, and educational institutions.