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Thu, Oct 09, 2003

NBAA Static Displays: Quite The Show!

By ANN Correspondent Rob Milford

There I was…65 feet over Orlando Executive…the engine was out, and I’m staring at a billion dollars worth of business aircraft parked on the ramp where I have to make my landing…

Good thing I was in a scissor lift, taking pictures of the assembled multitude of aircraft, well more than 100 on display, that set all kinds of speed and distance records flying into the NBAA this year.

The field was screaming on Wednesday afternoon, every size and shape of aircraft (a surprising number in white) headed out to the active runway, to show off to another bunch of prospective buyers.

Think things were busy? At the Gulfstream hospitality tent (the size of an average 5 bedroom house), there was so much traffic that the front doors were coming off the hinges.

The sponsored water barrels were constantly being refilled, and the temp was in the mid-80’s…humidity to match, and you couldn’t help but pity the executives or sales types who ignored the weather, and thought they could walk across the ramp in a suit and tie and lace-up oxfords.

Well, the static ramp takes up a large chunk of Orlando Executive (ORL). Coming through the welcoming tent, you’re struck by how large business jets have become, evidenced by the ABJ and BBJ (two of each) and the Challengers, Global Expresses and Gulfstreams.

You’ve got Bombardier and their Lears on the left, Dassault on the right, followed by Embraer, then on the left, Raytheon, with their Hawker and Beech lines. It really is awesome, or maybe just awe-inspiring.

This is the ultimate “big boy” toy store, and the people in the aircraft sales and brokerage business all echo the thoughts of Dave Gambacorta of AvPro, who said “I’d be happy to take the bus home if I sold this G!” Of course, he’s looking at commission on a $10+ million sale, so he doesn’t need to call Greyhound anytime soon, but he told Aero-News “The market’s firming, we’re seeing a lot more traffic here, and the timing is good for large cabin aircraft.”  This particular 1988 G-4 has been used by Cher for the last year or so on her never-ending “Farewell Tour”.

Jerry Edwards working just down the ramp says “I knew there would be a lot of white airplanes, so what better to stand out than a purple helicopter.” He’s talking about the Bell 430 that has been lovingly flown and maintained, and is priced to move. (And about the purple…deep, lustrous, just off of a dark blue).

There are some “stand out” planes. The Ibis “Spirit” in bright zinc chromate and ruby red primer, and the Extra 400 and 500, flanking their smaller brother the 300, and then the MiG-15Uti trainer, in bright gloss red, repping a JetWarbird training center in Santa Fe, New Mexico (more on them, later).

Cessna has their huge line of aircraft wrapping around one entire end of the ramp, along with a big tent, and then Gulfstream, that seemingly brought everyone and everything down from Savannah, including a G-550 that came in to Orlando after a 7,300nm non-stop, 14 hour flight from Seoul, South Korea!  (how many box lunches is that, anyway?)

And to give another idea of the traffic and popularity… by noon on Wednesday, they had gone through 100 dozen embroidered baseball hats!

The Piaggio P.180 Avanti is in a prime location, but no signage indicating that that aircraft snagged a world speed record on Sunday, coming from Chicago to Orlando in little more than 2 hours and change…something that would make Southwest or Delta envious.

We should make note of the efforts of all the companies to present a great show, and make things comfortable. In addition to the water tubs, they were pumping tons of air conditioning into the aircraft being shown, and the portable “facilities” were on par with what you find in your high dollar steak houses, not your normal airshow outhouses.

If you’re getting this a little late to walk through by 3PM on Thursday… get out to ORL anyway, they will be pumping about 200 planes out in a three-hour period, starting right after the show closes. It will be a very expensive aircraft ballet, with tugs and pre-flighting and fueling trucks and all those clearances to be filed, and multi-million dollar jet after jet after turbo prop, screaming off into the sky, their natural environment. What a show!

FMI: www.nbaa.org

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