For two hours last Saturday, Sebring Regional Airport was the busiest airport in the country. Just one of the preliminary indicators that the 8th Annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, Florida, saw a record-breaking turnout, at least in flight operations. In addition to the flight ops, early estimates show that 16,000 attended the four-day event and ticket sales were up 15 percent from last year.
According to Bert Simpson, FAA staff manager for the North Florida District, “There were a total of 3,434 flight operations during the four-day event, with Saturday being the biggest at 1,256.The busiest hours were Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m., with 222 flight operations taking place at that time, making Sebring Regional Airport the busiest airport in the country.”
Expo Director Jana Filip attributes this year’s success to “a culmination of great weather, increased marketing, and the addition of new events.”
Some 156 exhibitors and 149 aircraft were on display this year. According to the Expo’s website and press releases, various exhibitors reported brisk traffic, sealed deals and/or cultivated new prospects as a result of the show, which seemed to ring true. As I toured the show for half a day on Saturday, though the crowds weren’t thick, the show did seem to be generating interest judging by the steady streams of folks I saw visiting the static displays as well as the indoor exhibit booths. And as I chatted with several of the airplane exhibitors — including reps from Remos, Flight Design, CubCrafters, Kitfox, RANS and Dynon — they said the overall mood seemed to be that of an upbeat one. Several also said that they either closed deals at the show or that they expected sales to result from their Expo attendance. One even noted that interest from prospective buyers has been on the uptick since last summer’s Oshkosh.
New additions to the Expo were the AvBid Aircraft Auction, a model airplane contest, food-and-wine pairing events, a seaplane base and Splash-In at nearby Lake Jackson. In addition to a host of forums. AOPA‘s Craig Fuller hosted Friday’s Pilot Town Hall.
A Few Notables
Below are just a few of the items that piqued my interest during my visit to the Expo:
-Gleim Publications and Flight Design introduced the Gleim X-Plane Flight Training Course for the Flight Design CTLS equipped with the Dynon SkyView. Students can digitally fly each lesson in the Gleim Sport (and Private) Pilot Syllabus book before getting into the airplane. Based on the X-Plane Version 10, Windows PC platform, the simulator course is available to flight schools (with all hardware/software — computer and 3 monitors) for $5,000. Home users can purchase the software for $125.
-The Light Sport Group (Lightsportgroup.com) introduced the first-ever patented diagnostic tool for Rotax 912/914 engines. Dr. RoTech performs all the required electrical tests and measurements in seconds. It simply plugs into the ignition unit and signals a green (pass) or red (fail) light for each of the components tested. The unit retails for $499.
-Dynon Avionics’s Kirk Kleinholz, a CFII, conducted free, hands-on training courses showcasing the company’s SkyView glass panel system. According to Kleinholz, 86 people attended the seven classes offered during the show, with one working SkyView for every two students. The 3.5-hour sessions guided users through navigation exercises, operation of the autopilot, and how to locate/interpret various data including winds aloft, TAS and density altitude. Students included both current owners of SkyView and many considering the purchase. The Expo seminars followed on the heels of the ones given at Spruce Creek just prior to the show, where 20 people attended two classes. Dynon plans to offer the seminars at Sun ‘n Fun 2012. Signup details will be posted at dynonavionics.com.