They weren't quite dancing in the aisles at the 63rd annual meeting and convention of the National Business Aircraft Association. But at least the funeral march that has prevailed the past two years seems to be a thing of the past. The show wraps up later today at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta after three days of exhibits, meetings, seminars and intense networking.
Numbers this year show evidence of a coming rebound for the industry. Though overall attendance (approximately 25,000 registered) is down from the glory years immediately preceding the financial collapse, exhibitors are back up, at about 1,100. And the static display area out at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) was full, with 93 aircraft on the ramp and a waiting list for more. Those numbers reflect the overall tone that sounded consistently from opening speeches to press conferences to the conversations in the halls and corridors. Recovery is out there; it's coming painfully slowly; and we're behind most of the rest of the markets. But it is coming.
In his opening remarks, NBAA president Ed Bolen talked about how business aviation had weathered the storm, and how we can expedite the recovery. As did many others, Bolen cited the damage done in Washington and elsewhere by those who would bash business flying as part of their narrow political agenda. But he said that the trend has changed on Capitol Hill, and a third of the congressmen are not just neutral about private flying, but have become champions of general aviation. Recent passage of the bonus depreciation tax incentive is evidence of the lawmakers' support for GA. Bolen and many invited speakers cited the NBAA 'No Plane, No Gain' advocacy campaign, which pointed out that GA accounts for 1.2 million high-salary jobs in this country, contributes $150 billion to the U.S. economy annually, and is one of our best tools in balancing trade deficits. And in today's political environment, it's tough to go after an industry that creates jobs. GA also connects rural America, where airline service is dwindling. With access by private aviation, business is willing to bring jobs and opportunity to these communities. And NBAA studies show that when business aviation is part of the business plan, companies — large and small — do better than those who do not.