Surviving Big Aviation Shows

NBAA is like Oshkosh with pinstripes.

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Mark Phelps

The annual National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention and EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh have a lot in common. You wouldn't know that to look at the different contents of my suitcase for both shows, but it's true. I've thought for a long time that the core people involved in business aviation have just as much passion for flying as those who build or restore their own personal airplanes. They just approach their passion from a different slant. And in most cases, there are a few more zeros in front of the decimal point on the checks involved.

Providing corporate or personal transportation service for those who have the means and the need is a noble endeavor. And it gives pilots, mechanics, managers and other support staff the opportunity to be involved in some of the most cutting edge, cool technology that aviation has to offer. And that's what you can experience at the NBAA show. You just have to be careful about overload, just like at Oshkosh.

NBAA is always split between the exhibit halls and meeting rooms at the convention center and the aircraft static display at a nearby GA airport. This year, the exhibit halls are at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, and the static display is at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport a few miles to the northeast. There are more than 1,100 exhibitors at this year's show, including 93 aircraft on display at the airport. They range from Boeing Business Jets and Airbus Corporate Jetliners to piston singles. And the vendors in the halls might be offering anything from hydraulic valves to the finest grades of leather for interior completions.

So planning the hall walking and airport strolling takes some planning up front. The trick is to skim the list of exhibitors and highlight the A list — and keep the B and C lists in mind, too. Next, you can review the site map for scanning who is where, and how best to make the most out of the least number of steps. The same is true to a lesser extent at the airport static display. This is also true of the big show in Oshkosh every summer, or the Sun 'n Fun fly-in in Florida every spring.

Finally, it behooves show visitors to budget time for conversations with acquaintances new and old. The person standing in line at the food court has probably got a story, and you never know how yours and his might find gratifying common ground. Sometimes it's a favorite destination airport, sometimes it's past experience flying a favorite airplane. But for me at least, the best part of these shows is the people.

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